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The United States said Wednesday it did not consider Alexander Lukashenko the legitimate president of Belarus after he was secretly inaugurated following contested elections.

The State Department reiterated that it did not believe the August 9 elections in Belarus were free or fair.

“The announced results were fraudulent and did not convey legitimacy,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“The United States cannot consider Alexander Lukashenko the legitimately elected leader of Belarus.”

Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has claimed a sixth term despite wide claims of fraud, with police unleashing a crackdown on mass protests.

Police on Wednesday deployed water cannons and tear gas to disperse several thousand demonstrators after news of Lukashenko’s secret inauguration.

“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,” the State Department spokesperson said.

“Release of those unjustly detained and an end of repression against peacefully protesting citizens is a first step toward genuine national dialogue.”

Agence France-Presse

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