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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko Gets Award From Russian Orthodox Church

Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko received an award Tuesday from Patriarch Alexy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, during a visit to Moscow.

The award, from the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations, recognizes work that strengthens ties between Orthodox countries. Alexy chairs the foundation's board.

Orthodox Christianity is the predominant faith in both former Soviet republics.

Under Lukashenko, who is openly nostalgic for the Soviet Union, political opponents have disappeared or gone into exile, independent media have been suppressed, and political rallies broken up by police. Western governments refused to recognize the result of parliamentary elections, saying they were not democratic.

A Polish Roman Catholic priest has been subjected to deportation proceedings, and Protestant groups have found it difficult to find places to worship.

Other recipients of the award were Diodoros, the patriarch of Jerusalem and Palestine, Rem Vyakhirev, who heads Russia's Gazprom gas company, Spyros Kyprianou, the chairman of Cyprus' House of Representatives, and Syndesmos, the international Orthodox youth organization.