Viral Video of Belarus Dictator Alexander Lukashenko's Life of Luxury Sparks Outrage

A film about the opulent lifestyle of Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko has been viewed millions of times online, sparking outrage at the graft it accuses the authoritarian leader of.

The investigative film, called "Lukashenko. Goldmine" and produced by the Polish-based Belarusian opposition news outlet NEXTA, says that the president has lavished hundreds of million dollars on gilded residences, planes and cars.

NEXTA founder Stsiapan Putsila said that Lukashenko's Independence Palace in Minsk cost $250 million and that he has 17 other properties around the country.

Maybach and Rolls Royce vehicles worth more than $4.75 million allegedly belonging to the president, but officially registered in other names, were also on show.

Based on the testimony of anonymous sources, including a man presented as a former employee of the president's administration, NEXTA obtained documents it says back up the claims.

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko at the All-Belarusian People's Assembly in Minsk on February 11, 2021. A film accusing him of a life of luxury has been viewed millions of times. Pavel ORLOVSKY/Getty Images

Within four days of its release on YouTube on Monday, the film had been viewed nearly four million times and raised the specter of further protests in the country against Lukashenko.

Lukashenko, who has been dubbed Europe's last dictator, claimed victory in last August's election, which the international community—including the EU and the U.S.—said was rigged.

People took to the streets to protest but were met with a brutal crackdown. Thousands of Belarusians, including dozens of journalists, were detained by the authorities.

With many protesters and opposition figures in jail, the presumptive winner of the election, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, is in exile in neighboring Lithuania, which this week refused a request by Minsk for her extradition.

"For millions of Belarusians, the film was mind-blowing," said Tsikhanouskaya's senior adviser, Franak Viačorka.

"All the palaces and castles he built for himself must become museums of dictatorship, parks for kids, hospitals. This all belongs to the people," he told Newsweek.

The film builds on a recurring theme by documentary makers about the graft of post-Soviet authoritarian leaders.

In January, the documentary "Putin's Palace" by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) accused the Russian leader of owning a billion-dollar Black Sea property containing dazzling interiors.

In 2014, the abandoned gilded residence of ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich was thrown open to the world's cameras, revealing a riot of chandeliers and marble.

The Belarussian government has not commented on the film about its leader but in what appeared to be a pre-emptive strike, he said last week during a factory visit: "I did not steal anything from my state, I did not take anything."

"I have been working as president for a quarter of a century, and if there were already some billions, as they say, or palaces, I would have already been torn to pieces from all sides," he added.

The Lukashenko film may have sparked comments and jokes on social media but it has also raised serious questions about the direction of the opposition movement as the president refuses to budge from power.

"I don't know if it will arm the protests, but it will definitely open eyes to many who were not involved in politics," said Viačorka, who added that Lukashenko owns not only palaces but a network of businesses.

The Belarusian leader "wants to control everything, he hates competitors, he wants unlimited power," Viačorka added. "We are about to know many details about the level of corruption he has built during 26 years."

The graphic below provided by Statista shows the official results of presidential elections in Belarus.

Belarus Election 2020 Statista
Statista