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Belarus’ Lukashenko secretly inaugurated for sixth term as disputed election result remains unrecognized by most Western states

Belarus’ Lukashenko secretly inaugurated for sixth term as disputed election result remains unrecognized by most Western states
Alexander Lukashenko has been secretly inaugurated for a sixth consecutive term as Belarusian president, in a low-key ceremony at Minsk’s Independence Palace on Wednesday morning.

In contrast to the often-elaborate inductions of the past, the inauguration was attended by just a few hundred people.

Lukashenko’s 26-year-long reign was officially extended for another five years, with the president swearing an oath in the Belarusian language with his hand placed on a copy of the country’s constitution. According to BelTA, a state-owned news agency, the hush-hush event was attended by senior officials, members of Parliament, heads of government organizations, and figures from media, science, culture, and sport.

“The day when the President takes office is the day of our victory,” Lukashenko said during the ceremony. “We have not just chosen the country’s president, but we have defended our values, peace, sovereignty, and independence. And in this regard, we still have a lot to do.”

Lukashenko’s previous inauguration, in 2015, was a much grander affair. Held in the same building, it was attended by over 1,000 guests and broadcast on television. Those present included former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and the Chinese ambassador.

On Tuesday evening, the day before the ceremony, Polish-based Telegram channel NEXTA posted that the inauguration might be held in secret, suggesting the dates of September 23, 27, or 28. On Wednesday morning, prior to the ceremony, Belarusian social media users began to report the blocking of major roads in the capital, as well as the heavy presence of security forces.

Lukashenko was elected for a sixth term as Belarusian President on August 9, in a vote many consider to have been rigged. According to the disputed official results, he received 80.10 percent of the vote, with opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya getting 10.12 percent. After the closing of polling stations, mass protests began against the falsification of results. During the first few days of the rallies, police and internal troops used tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse protesters, while strikes were organized at large factories. In the weeks since, the gatherings became less frequent and less violent, but still attract thousands of Belarusian citizens.

In response to the disputed election, many Western countries have refused to accept the outcome. European Council president Charles Michel announced that the EU doesn’t “recognize the results presented by the Belarus authorities.” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the election “fraudulent,” while US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that the country is “deeply concerned.” The strongest stance was taken by Belarus’ northern neighbor, Lithuania, which declared Tikhanovskaya as the true leader of the Belarusian people.

Unlike the previous inauguration, Wednesday's ceremony was not attended by any foreign ambassadors, including the Russian representative in Minsk, Dmitriy Mezentsev. When asked by reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refrained from commenting on the secret event, calling it a “sovereign decision” by Belarus’ authorities.

Also on rt.com Belarusian police use mace on protesters & fire warning shot amid clashes at anti-Lukashenko rally in Brest (VIDEOS)

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