Belarusian opposition calls for a "civil disobedience campaign" after Alexander Lukashenko took oath as president despite weeks of protests against "rigged election".

Alexander Lukashenko takes oath of office as Belarusian president during a swearing-in ceremony in Minsk on September 23, 2020.
Alexander Lukashenko takes oath of office as Belarusian president during a swearing-in ceremony in Minsk on September 23, 2020. (Reuters)

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has assumed his sixth term of office during an inauguration ceremony that officials did not announce in advance after weeks of mass protests against the leader's re-election, which opposition activists say was rigged.

State news agency Beltra reported that the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday took place in the capital of Minsk with several hundred top government officials, lawmakers, representatives of media organisations and other prominent figures present.

Lukashenko, 66, took an oath in Belarusian with his right hand on the country's constitution, and the head of the country's central election commission handed him the official ID card of the president of Belarus.

"The day of assuming the post of the president is the day of our victory, convincing and fateful," Lukashenko 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."

Pavel Latushko, a member of the opposition's coordination council, said on social media that he and his allies would never accept what he called Lukashenko's falsified election victory and demanded a new presidential election be held.

"We call on everyone to immediately start a civil disobedience campaign," said Latushko.

READ MORE: EU fails to unblock sanctions against Belarus

'Rigged' election

Lukashenko has run Belarus, an ex-Soviet nation of 9.5 million, for 26 years. Official results of the country's August 9 presidential election had him winning 80 percent of the vote. 

His strongest opponent, Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, got 10 percent.

Tikhanovskaya has not accepted the outcome of the election as valid, and neither have the thousands of her supporters who demanded Lukashenko's resignation during more than six weeks of mass protests.

READ MORE: Dozens arrested as mass rallies in Belarus mount pressure on Lukashenko

EU's failure

The United States and the European Union have also criticised the violent police crackdown on post-election protests in Belarus.

Soon after Lukashenko's inauguration, Germany said it does not recognise him as the president of Belarus, saying his disputed re-election lacked "democratic legitimacy".

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Berlin wanted to agree with European Union sanctions against Belarus as quickly as possible.

European Union foreign ministers on Monday failed to agree on sanctions over the political crisis, despite a plea for support from Tikhanovskaya.

Cyprus, which has good relations with Russia, has vetoed proposed EU sanctions.

READ MORE: UN rights body OKs more scrutiny of Belarus over human rights abuses

Brutal crackdown 

Protests demanding Lukashenko to resign have rocked the country daily since last month’s election, with the largest rallies in Minsk attracting up to 200,000 people.

During the first three days of the protests, demonstrators faced a brutal crackdown, with police using truncheons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. 

Several protesters died.

Lukashenko has bristled at suggestions of dialogue with the opposition. 

Amid international outrage, Belarusian authorities switched to prosecuting top activists and mass detentions, avoiding large-scale violence.

Belarus has sought Russia's help to shore up support for the Lukashenko government.

Many members of the Coordination Council, which was formed by the opposition to push for a transition of power, have been arrested or forced to leave the country.

'Secret inauguration' 

Law enforcement officers blocked off central areas of Minsk on Wednesday morning and public transportation services were suspended.

The government did not publicise time and location of the inauguration ceremony in advance. 

"The secret inauguration illustrates the level of trust of the leader to the official results of the election and to the people. Those who officially got 80 percent of the votes don't act like that," said Alexander Klaskousky, an independent Minsk-based analyst.

"Lukashenko received rebelling people as a gift from who he needs to hide during the inauguration, fearing mass protests," Klaskousky said.

READ MORE: Baltic states slap sanctions on Belarus over alleged election rigging

Source: TRTWorld and agencies