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 U.S. announcement follows similar statements from European officials, including EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell.
A German government spokesperson reiterated today that Germany does not view Lukashenko as legitimate, adding of Wednesday's inauguration:
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 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.