Belarus' Lukashenko shrugs off Western refusal to recognise his inauguration

Mr Alexander Lukashenko claimed to have won 80 per cent of the vote in Aug 9 polls despite huge support for his opposition rival. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MINSK (AFP) - Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday (Sept 24) responded defiantly to the European Union and the United States which refused to recognise his inauguration as president, citing rigged polls.

"They're shouting that they don't recognise us," Mr Lukashenko said at a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador Cui Qiming.

A number of Western countries have refused to acknowledge Mr Lukashenko as president, following his inauguration on Wednesday.

He claimed to have won 80 per cent of the vote in Aug 9 polls despite huge support for his opposition rival, Ms Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

The United States described the elections as "fraudulent."

Mr Lukashenko insisted: "We never asked anyone to recognise or not recognise our elections, or to recognise the legitimacy of the re-elected president or not."

On Thursday, the European Union said that Mr Lukashenko's inauguration for a sixth term the day before lacked "any democratic legitimacy" and was reviewing its relations with Minsk.

Earlier on Wednesday, the United States and European countries including Germany said they refused to recognise Mr Lukashenko as the president of the ex-Soviet state because the elections were not free or fair.

The non-transparent ballot included several days of early voting while Belarus failed to invite international observer group OSCE in time.

The opposition has called for fresh elections to be held according to international standards.

The authoritarian leader - in power since 1994 - said of the inauguration that "the main thing is that this should correspond to our country's constitution. And if they see contradictions, let them say so."

Mr Lukashenko also responded to criticism of his decision to hold his inauguration without prior announcement and without live television coverage, in an apparent move to prevent protesters gathering.

The Belarusian strongman said that his motorcade drove through the city and some 2,000 people were invited to the ceremony including the military, arguing "there was no secret."

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Minsk on Wednesday evening and the interior ministry said police detained 252 demonstrators in the capital.

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