Both the US and the European Union have said that they will not recognise yesterday’s presidential inauguration of Alexander Lukashenko as legitimate. Several hundred officials were present at the ceremony, which was held with high security in place.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “The so-called ‘inauguration’ of 23 September 2020 and the new mandate claimed by Alexander Lukashenko lack any democratic legitimacy.

“This ‘inauguration’ directly contradicts the will of large parts of the Belarusian population, as expressed in numerous, unprecedented and peaceful protests since the elections, and serves to only further deepen the political crisis in Belarus.

“The European Union’s position is clear: Belarusian citizens deserve the right to be represented by those they freely choose through new inclusive, transparent and credible elections.

“We are impressed and moved by the courage of the Belarusian people who continue to demonstrate peacefully for democracy and for their fundamental rights despite the brutal repression of the Belarusian authorities. We stand in solidarity with them and fully support their democratic right to elect their President through new free and fair elections under the OSCE/ODIHR’s supervision.

“We reiterate our expectation that the Belarusian authorities immediately refrain from any further repression and violence directed against the Belarusian people and immediately and unconditionally release all those detained, including political prisoners.”

More than 5,000 people demonstrated in Minsk on Wednesday when news spread of the inauguration and several hundred arrests were made.