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Lukashenko at his secret inauguration. Photo: Andrei Stasevich/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. no longer recognizes Aleksandr Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus, the State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has clung to power with the support of Russia amid seven weeks of protests that have followed a blatantly rigged election. Fresh protests broke out Wednesday evening in Minsk after it emerged that Lukashenko had held a secret inauguration ceremony.

What they're saying:

"The United States cannot consider Aleksandr Lukashenko the legitimately elected leader of Belarus. The path forward should be a national dialogue leading to the Belarusian people enjoying their right to choose their leaders in a free and fair election under independent observation."
— State Department spokesperson

The U.S. announcement follows similar statements from European officials, including EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

"The situation is clear for us. We consider the elections of August 9 fraudulent. We don't recognize Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus."
— Josep Borrell last week to the European Parliament

A German government spokesperson reiterated today that Germany does not view Lukashenko as legitimate, adding of Wednesday's inauguration:

"The fact that this ceremony was prepared secretly and carried out away from the public eye is very telling."
— German government spokesman

The big picture: Prior to the election, Lukashenko's relations with the West had actually been improving, largely because he was growing increasingly adversarial with Moscow.

  • Times have changed. Now, Lukashenko has been showering praise on Vladimir Putin, and in return, he received pledges that Russia will offer financial support and deploy an auxiliary police force to Belarus if needed.
  • Lukashenko has faced fierce global condemnation as he's cracked down on the protests that followed the election, but Putin has stood by him as hundreds have been arbitrarily detained and even tortured.

What to watch: Rhetoric from Washington and Brussels has not been matched by significant actions.

  • The EU failed earlier this week to pass sanctions on Belarusian officials because Cyprus, one of the smallest EU member states, objected due to an unrelated matter.
  • European leaders have vowed to raise the issue again, and Borrell warned "our credibility is at stake."

Where things stand: Lukashenko seems to have retained the loyalty of the security forces, but he's clearly lost much of the population. Cities across the country saw large protests on Sunday for the seventh consecutive weekend.

Go deeper

Oct 7, 2020 - World

EU gives Palestinians ultimatum by linking aid to financial ties with Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

European Union leaders have told the Palestinian Authority they will refuse to provide any additional financial aid as long as the Palestinians refuse to accept tax revenues collected by Israel, European diplomats and Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The unprecedented ultimatum is another indication that frustration with leaders in Ramallah is growing, even among staunch supporters of the Palestinians.

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

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