President Aleksandr Lukashenko has repositioned Belarus from being a stalwart Russian ally isolated from the West to being a mediator between Russia and the West in their standoff over Ukraine.
After seven years, the Praspyekt Nyezalyezhnastsi -- the main boulevard in the Belarusian capital of Minsk -- seemed little changed. The immense Soviet-era administration buildings still towered ominously over the sidewalks, making the trees and the pedestrians feel tiny. A large bust of Lenin remained in front of the presidential library, an austere, cubist building still adorned with Soviet insignia. Yet these impressions from a chilly evening in May were rather misleading. Belarus had changed. The 2014 uprising in Ukraine had shaken Minsk into seeking a new role in the standoff between Russia and the West. In addition, Belarus and the other countries in these Eastern European borderlands have been trying to turn the stalemate to their advantage....
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