'So-called inauguration': EU joins US in rejecting legitimacy of Lukashenko's controversial new presidential mandate in Belarus

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko’s secret inauguration for a new term has not gone down well with the EU. Brussels will “review” relations with Minsk after an event it claimed was “lacking any democratic legitimacy.”

On Thursday morning, it emerged that the EU does not recognize the results of last month’s Belarusian presidential election, which it said was “neither free nor fair,” adding that it also no longer sees Lukashenko as the nation’s legitimate leader.

“The so-called ‘inauguration’ of 23 September 2020 and the new mandate claimed by Aleksandr Lukashenko lack any democratic legitimacy,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said in a statement, referring to the unexpected and clandestine ceremony the Belarusian leader held on Wednesday.

The move would only “deepen the political crisis”, the EU added while once again calling on Minsk to refrain from violence and engage in “inclusive national dialogue” paving the way for new elections. Meanwhile, it said “it is reviewing its relations with Belarus.”

Earlier, Borrell said in a lengthy blog-post that the EU’s failure to adopt sanctions against Belarusian officials in a timely manner is “a matter of our credibility.” Washington also announced its rejection of Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus.

Interestingly, a few hours later, the Kremlin explained that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not congratulate Lukashenko on the inauguration. “No, there was no such thing,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “Actually, there has already been congratulations (when the election results were announced).”

Wednesday’s inauguration sparked another wave of protests in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Crowds took to the streets in the capital and marched to a WWII monument in the city center. The demonstrators were met with a strong police response and the use of water cannon.

Police detained 364 protesters over various “breaches of the law”, including 252 in Minsk, the Belarusian Interior Ministry announced following the demonstrations. Authorities also informed Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that several security officers were hurt during the protest in the capital.

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