(Reuters) - President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus for 12 years, spoke to Reuters in a rare interview on Tuesday.
The president is accused by the opposition and the West of silencing independent media and cracking down on political rivals. He says he has provided stability and avoided the chaos that other post-Soviet republics have suffered.
Following is a brief chronology of his time in power.
1994 - Lukashenko is elected Belarussian president for a five-year term on pledges to fight corruption.
1996 - Lukashenko holds referendum, boosting his powers and extending his term for two years. He also dissolves parliament. Western countries denounce the vote as fraudulent.
1997 -- Lukashenko forces Western diplomats to move out of their residencies. The United States and some European states recall their ambassadors temporarily.
1999 -- Former Interior Minister Yuri Zakharenko, opposition politician Viktor Gonchar and businessman Anatoly Krasovsky disappear after a bid to stage an alternative presidential election. Lukashenko denies any involvement. An investigation into the case is dropped in 2003.
2000 -- Russian television cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky disappears. Authorities deny any involvement.
2001 -- Lukashenko accuses the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe of spying and helping the opposition. He expels a number of OSCE officials.
2001 -- Lukashenko is re-elected for a second five-year term. The opposition, independent observers and the West denounced the poll as rigged.
October 2004 -- Lukashenko wins over 80 percent support in a referendum to change the constitution to let him seek a third term. The opposition and the West say the vote was fraudulent.
April 2005 -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it is time for change in Belarus. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismisses the notion of Lukashenko as a dictator.
May 2005 -- A diplomatic row occurs with Poland over rights of the 400,000-strong Polish minority. Each country expels the other's diplomats. Police raid a Polish cultural center.
November 2005 - Lukashenko says he will either win re-election fairly or retire.
December 2005 - Belarus passes a law to curb upheaval, providing for up to three years in prison for inciting protests or spreading information harmful to national interests.
February 2006 - President Bush criticizes Belarus's human rights record
March 2006 - Lukashenko wins re-election with official results giving him 83 percent of the vote. Four days of unprecedented protests up to 10,000-strong are ended by police. Lukashenko fails to appear for several days but is inaugurated in April. The United States and European Union condemn the vote as rigged and bar entry to Lukashenko and other officials.
June 2006 - One of two opposition candidates who challenged Lukashenko in the election, Alexander Kozulin, is jailed for 5 1/2 years on charges of inciting violence after the election.
December 2006-January 2007 - Lukashenko is forced to accept increases in the price of oil and gas after a row with Russia which halted oil flows through to the West for three days. Lukashenko accuses Russia of trying to "strangle" Belarus.