Lithuania does not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as the legitimate leader of Belarus, Lithuanian officials commented on reports about his inauguration in Minsk. Meanwhile, Svetlana Tikhanovkaya said the inauguration marked the official end of Lukashenko’s presidency.
Belarusian state media reported on Wednesday that Lukashenko was sworn in as Belarusian president for a sixth term on Wednesday. The ceremony that was not previously announced took place at the Independence Palace in Minsk and was attended by several hundred officers, politicians and cultural figures.
Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus since 1994, has faced unprecedented protests after claiming a landslide victory in the August 9 presidential election. His term was to expire in early November.
“Lithuania does not recognise Lukashenko as a legitimate Belarusian leader. The August 9 election in Belarus was not free, fair or democratic. Secret and pompous ceremonies will not change that fact or create any illusion of legitimacy,” said the Lithuania president’s spokesman Antanas Bubnelis to BNS.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said that Lukashenko was now a “former” president of Belarus.
“We see attempts to imitate what does not exist in reality, but the saddest thing is that people are suffering because of that as they are being further intimidated, and arrests and detentions continue,” Linkevičius told reporters on Wednesday.
The fact that the inauguration ceremony was held secretly shows “the miserable nature of the whole situation”, Linkevičius added.
Meanwhile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was Lukashenko’s main rival in the election and has been forced to flee to Lithuania to avoid intimidation, said the ceremony marked the official end of his presidency.
“The so-called inauguration is a farce. In fact, Lukashenko resigned today,” she said in a video address posted on the Telegram channel Pul Pervoi.
“This means that his orders to power structures are no longer legitimate and cannot be executed. I, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, am the only leader elected by the Belarusian people. And our task now is to build a new Belarus together,” she continued.
The officially proclaimed results of the election, disputed by the Belarusian opposition and many European governments alike, gave victory to Lukashenko with 80 percent of the vote, while Tikhanovskaya allegedly got 10 percent.
Lithuania has repeatedly called on Minsk to hold a new free and fair election.