Belarus: thousands attend leading opposition candidate campaign rally | AFP

Thousands of supporters of the president’s top election rival attend a rally in the town of Maladzechna, some 70 km northwest of Minsk in Belarus. Stay-at-home-mother Svetlana Tikhanovskaya never had presidential ambitions but has become a leading opposition candidate to president Alexander Lukashenko, who is seeking a sixth term in polls on August 9.

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In Belarus, a rural paramedic defies the virus to help villagers | AFP

Rural paramedic Nadezhda Kononova is providing an indispensable lifeline to elderly villagers in isolated areas of northeastern Belarus. The country has stood out for its lack of official response since the start of the pandemic, with strongman Alexander Lukashenko repeatedly disputing the seriousness of the virus. Belarus, which has a population of more than nine million people, has reported more than 45,000 coronavirus cases and over 250 deaths.

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Lukashenko digs in: Belarus president helps harvest 105 tons of potatoes

Alexander Lukashenko and his younger son Nikolai spent Saturday harvesting potatoes at a presidential farm in the Minsk Region. In total, Belarus’ leader and his helpers collected around 105 tons of potatoes from three hectares of land. This is not the first time Belarus’ leader has helped bring in the potato harvest. He usually donates some of the crop to local charitable organizations.

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Blackout Ep. 3: Inside Belarus, Europe’s Last Dictatorship

In October of last year, Alexander Lukashenko swept to his fifth term as the Belarusian president, marking 22 years in power. Despite the elections being marred by allegations of fraud, the EU has this month lifted travel sanctions against Lukashenko’s government, as a reward for good behavior — the elections passed without a repeat of 2010’s violent crackdown against opposition parties. But critics argue that the EU is making a dangerous endorsement of an autocratic regime that still employs the use of internet surveillance, censorship, and intimidation to exert control over its people and press.

VICE News meets the Belarusian journalists and bloggers struggling to tell the truth about Belarus in this post-soviet dictatorship.

In BLACKOUT, a series made possible by Jigsaw, VICE News takes viewers across the globe, from Pakistan to Belarus, to examine technology’s role in the ongoing fight for free expression.

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