Lukashenko abruptly sworn in
MINSK (RUSSIA) – President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was sworn in for a sixth term on Wednesday despite allegations from the opposition and several foreign governments that the election was rigged.
The ceremony, which would otherwise have been a publicised state occasion, was instead held without warning.
Protests from the opposition has been continuing for more than six weeks and have demanded his resignation on Wednesday evening.
The United States and European Union are formulating sanctions against officials involved in the election.
According to the official news agency Belta, Lukashenko placed his right hand on a copy of the constitution and took the oath of office at a ceremony attended by several hundred people.
The 66-year-old leader said the country was in need of safety and consensus “on the brink of a global crisis”, which was a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I cannot, I have no right to abandon the Belarusians,” he said.
Protesters carrying red-and-white opposition flags began gathering in small groups in the capital.
An opposition politician, Pavel Latushko, said, “Where are the jubilant citizens? Where is the diplomatic corps?” he posted on social media. “It is obvious that Alexander Lukashenko is exclusively the president of the OMON (riot police) and a handful of lying officials.”
Latushko called for “an indefinite action of civil disobedience”.
Germany denounced recognising Lukashenko as president.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Twitter: “Such a farce. Forget elections…His illegitimacy is a fact with all the consequences that this entails”.
Lukashenko promised to “faithfully serve the people of the Republic of Belarus, respect and protect the rights and freedoms of the person and of the citizen” and uphold the constitution.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the swearing-in was “absolutely the sovereign decision of the Belarusian leadership”.