Belarus' Lukashenko Sworn-In At 'Secret' Ceremony To Avoid Protests

After his Aug.9 controversial reelection to a sixth term, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been sworn in during an event international reports describe as a "secret ceremony" which was held with no prior announcement.

Belta state news agency was the first to report the swearing in on Wednesday, the first indication of which were eyewitness reports of widespread street closures in Minsk and even allegations of intentional internet outages as the presidential motorcade sped through the streets.

"Alexander Lukashenko has taken office as President of Belarus. The inauguration ceremony is taking place in these minutes in the Palace of Independence," Belta reported.

In his few recent public appearances, Lukashenko has donned combat gear, including a bullet proof vest and black utility clothes, while carrying an automatic rifle.

Armored vehicles have also now for weeks protected the president's residential complex in Minsk after almost every weekend demonstrations have swelled to an estimated 100,000 - including marches which seek to confront the strongman who has already been in office for 26 years.

The AP reports that "Lukashenko's official website did not make any announcement and the ceremony was not shown live on state television, apparently to avoid protesters gathering."

Of course, the inauguration has already sparked anger in the region given that it was done in "full secrecy". 

His opposition rival, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, is still claiming victory after fleeing to Lithuania, and alleged the election was "rigged". 

Lukashenko and his supporters have warned there's a NATO-sponsored "color revolution" unfolding. Russian intelligence officials have alleged the same thing.

Last week for example, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service SVR, Sergey Naryshkin, charged that the United States is "stage managing" the unrest in Belarus, which has since the contested election sought to oust Lukashenko from office.