The man critics call "Europe's last dictator" has his own "Mini-Me," and the people of Belarus suspect he's being groomed for power. Nikolai, the 11-year-old son of Alexander Lukashenko, often appears alongside his father in military uniform and accompanies the leader around the world to meet foreign leaders, including President Obama at the UN General Assembly last month, the Telegraph reports. The boy, who has been appearing in public with Lukashenko since he was 4, is the youngest of the leader's three sons and it isn't clear who his mother is, though she's rumored to be a personal doctor who became one of Lukashenko's mistresses. The BBC notes that Lukashenko has previously dismissed talk of political grooming, explaining his son's constant presence by saying that Nikolai is so devoted to him that the boy can't sleep when he's away.
But Minsk-watchers would not be surprised if a North Korea-style succession is in the works. "Dynastic succession is a long-term possibility," a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations tells the Telegraph. "Kolya [the boy's nickname] is also very young, and that is very deliberate: It sends the message, 'I may be grooming my son for power, but you won't be rid of me anytime soon." In widely criticized elections held on Sunday, Lukashenko won a fifth term with 83.5% of the vote, Reuters reports. Two of the three other candidates on the ballot were pro-Lukashenko, the BBC notes. (Lukashenko is tough on litterers and teddy bears.)