US watching Belarus election

Belarus has begun voting in parliamentary elections that will be closely watched by the West to see whether President Alexander Lukashenko keeps his iron grip.

Lukashenko, 65, has ruled the east European country for a quarter of a century, but has begun allowing some opposition in a bid to foster ties with the West as relations with Moscow sputter.

In September, the US and Belarus announced they would resume ambassadorial relations for the first time since 2008.

Washington also signalled it might further scale back sanctions on Minsk depending on how the parliamentary elections and 2020 presidential vote are conducted.

Relations with Russia, a traditional ally, suffered after Minsk refused to recognise Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

Moscow has also cut subsidies to Belarus that have long kept the country of 9.5 million in its orbit..

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