UPDATED: Lukashenko abruptly sworn in for new presidential term in Belarus

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President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus was sworn in for a new term on Wednesday, the official news agency Belta said, in a sudden inauguration conducted with no prior announcement.

The ceremony, which would normally be publicised in advance as a major state occasion, follows a disputed election on Aug. 9 in which Lukashenko, in power since 1994, claimed a landslide victory. The opposition accused him of massive vote-rigging.

Belta said Lukashenko placed his right hand on a copy of the constitution and swore the oath of office at a ceremony attended by several hundred people.

A handout photo made available by Belta shows Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko swears-in during an inauguration ceremony at the Palace of Independence in Minsk, Belarus, 23 September 2020. Alexander Lukashenko officially took an office as the President of Belarus amid ongoing opposition protests demanding new elections under international observation. EPA-EFE/ANDREI STASEVICH / BELTA

Belarus is facing the prospect of U.S. and European Union sanctions over the disputed election, which 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”.

The Belarusian opposition movement on Wednesday called for an immediate civil disobedience campaign after Lukashenko was inaugurated as president despite weeks of protests over what critics say was his rigged election victory.

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.

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