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When the strongman ruler of Belarus declared an implausible landslide victory in an election in August and had himself sworn in for a sixth term as president, the United States and other Western nations denounced what they said was brazen defiance of the voters’ will.

President Alexander Lukashenko’s victory, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month, was "fraud.” Pompeo added, "We’ve opposed the fact that he’s now inaugurated himself. We know what the people of Belarus want. They want something different.”

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