Sergei Markov, the head of the Moscow-based Institute for Political Studies, criticized Belarus' former Soviet stable mates, Latvia and Estonia, which joined the EU in 2004, for effectively disenfranchising a quarter of their population and weighed into the debate about whether sanctions should be levied against Minsk following the incumbent leader's disputed recent landslide reelection.
"Latvia and Estonia are less democratic states than Belarus," he said. "As far as sanctions are concerned, they should be imposed on Latvia and Estonia, which have completely excluded 25% of their residents from political life."
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Markov dismissed Western criticism of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who Washington has dubbed "Europe's last dictator" for his authoritarian regime, saying that he had rescued the country from some of the pitfalls that other newly independent countries fell into after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"People in Belarus consider Lukashenko to be the [country's] savior from oligarchs and gangsters," he said.
Although the Belarusian opposition and European bodies have questioned Lukashenko's 83% election triumph on Sunday, the 51-year-old former collective farm boss, who has been in power since 1994, is known to have support in his homeland for providing relative economic stability in comparison with other former Soviet states.
Markov said Lukashenko had achieved great economic success.