Lukashenko's surprise inauguration is a 'thieves' meeting' and a 'farce,' Belarus opposition says

President Alexander Lukashenko takes his oath of office during an unannounced inauguration ceremony in Minsk on September 23.

Minsk (CNN)Embattled Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has been inaugurated as President, state media reported, as protests continue over his hotly-disputed election win.

The country's state press service released images of the unannounced ceremony, which took place in the capital, Minsk, on Wednesday.
The embattled Belarusian president assumed office during a ceremony at Minsk's Palace of Independence. No prior notice was given of the event, which took local journalists and opposition activists by surprise.
    Opposition politicians described the ceremony as a "thieves' meeting" and a "farce."
    The opposition Coordination Council, set up to facilitate a transfer of power, urged members of the international community Wednesday to support its members and denounce Lukashenko's appointment.
    "This morning Alexander Lukashenko appointed himself the President of the Republic of Belarus...the Belarusians did not vote for him in the election, though this farce can hardly be called an election," the Board of the Coordination Council said Wednesday in a statement.
    "We call on the European Union, Great Britain, the USA, Canada, China, [and] Russia to take a clear position on recognising Lukashenko [as] illegitimate and to consider recalling your ambassadors for consultations," the statement added.
    The US said Wednesday that it rejected the legitimacy of Lukashenko's win.
    "The United States cannot consider Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Alexander Lukashenko) the legitimately elected leader of Belarus," a US State Department spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.
    "The elections August 9 were neither free nor fair. The announced results were fraudulent and did not convey legitimacy."
    Lukashenko was declared the landslide winner of the vote in August, but critics have publicly accused him of rigging the poll, and have since disappeared from the country.
    Tens of thousands of protesters have also taken to the streets in mass demonstrations across Belarus for weeks.
    Opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is coordinating the protests from exile in Lithuania, said that "this so-called inauguration is, of course, a farce."
    "Lukashenko's attempt to preserve his legitimacy only points to the fact that his previous authority has ended, but Belarusian citizens did not give him a new mandate," Tikhanovskaya posted on her Telegram feed.
    Another opposition politician, Pavel Latushko, accused Lukashenko of holding a "special operation on self-inauguration."
    "Under the protection of riot police, in the atmosphere of secrecy, in a narrow circle of hastily brought officials. Where are the jubilant citizens? Where are the diplomatic corps? To be honest, it looks more like a thieves' meeting for the coronation of another thief-in-law," Latushko wrote on social media.