İrem UZUN -TDO- President Alexander Lukashenko is not the legitimate president of Belarus, the European Union said on Thursday, saying his abrupt swearing-in on Wednesday went directly against the will of the people. "This so-called '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 EU's 27 states said in a statement.

The inauguration took place in secret and with no prior announcement; only government officials attended. During the ceremony, Lukashenko placed his right hand on the constitution and swore to "serve the people of the Republic of Belarus, respect and protect rights and freedoms of people and citizens." Thousands of Belarusians staged mass demonstrations Wednesday night to denounce the secret inauguration. More than 150 people were arrested across Belarus, including in the capital city and in the southwestern city of Brest, according to Viasna rights group. Following the ceremony, the Belarusian opposition called for an "immediate civil disobedience campaign".

Several European nations, including Germany, Denmark, and the Baltic nations, announced they would no longer recognize Lukashenko’s government. The EU has called for sanctions against those responsible for vote manipulating and subsequent violence against peaceful protesters.    

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