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Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko suddenly sworn in for a new term in unannounced inauguration

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Hard line Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko is suddenly sworn in for a new term in unannounced inauguration after six weeks of mass protests against his election victory

  • Ceremony was conducted earlier today in Minsk with no prior announcement
  • The 66-year-old was sworn in in front of several hundred government officials
  • He claimed a landslide victory in August amid accusations of vote-rigging

By Raven Saunt For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in for a new term in an unannounced inauguration after six weeks of mass protests against his election victory.

The ceremony was conducted earlier today in Minsk with several hundred top government officials present, according to reports.

The 66-year-old placed his right hand on a copy of the constitution and swore the oath of office in front of several hundred top government officials, news agency Belta said.

‘The day of assuming the post of the president is the day of our victory, convincing and fateful,’ he said at the ceremony. 

‘We were not just electing the president of the country – we were defending our values, our peaceful life, sovereignty and independence.’  

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (pictured) has been sworn in for a new term in an unannounced inauguration after six weeks of mass protests against his election victory

The 66-year-old placed his right hand on a copy of the constitution and swore the oath of office in front of several hundred top government officials

He added that the country needed safety and consensus ‘on the brink of a global crisis’ in an apparent reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘I cannot, I have no right to abandon the Belarusians,’ he said.

The inauguration, which would normally be publicised in advance as a major state occasion, follows a disputed election on August 9. 

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and will now begin his sixth term, claimed a landslide victory with the opposition accusing him of massive vote-rigging. 

But Belarus, an ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million, is facing the prospect of US and European Union sanctions over the disputed election after it was followed by a crackdown by Lukashenko’s security forces against opposition protests demanding his resignation. 

United Nations human rights investigator Anais Marin said last week that more than 10,000 people had been ‘abusively arrested’ since the election with more than 500 reports of torture and thousands ‘savagely beaten’. 

Belarus authorities have previously said the police are humane and professional but have declined to comment on specific allegations of abuses. 

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and will now begin his sixth term (pictured at today’s inauguration), claimed a landslide victory with the opposition accusing him of massive vote-rigging

An opposition politician, Pavel Latushko, said the swearing-in was like a secret ‘thieves’ meeting’.

‘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.’

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’. 

Belarus is crucial to Russia as a buffer state against NATO and a conduit for Russian exports of oil and gas to Moscow (Lukashenko pictured alongside Vladimir Putin Putin last week)

Belarus is crucial to Russia as a buffer state against NATO and a conduit for Russian exports of oil and gas to Moscow.

At a summit last week, Vladimir Putin granted Lukashenko a $1.5billion loan, and the two countries are holding ‘Slavic Brotherhood’ defence exercises in Belarus.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the swearing-in was ‘absolutely the sovereign decision of the Belarusian leadership’. 

Asked if Putin was invited, he said it looked as though the presence of foreign leaders had not been envisaged.

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