Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, whose re-election in a disputed poll last month led to weeks of mass protests, has been inaugurated for a sixth term in an unannounced ceremony.
State media said several hundred people attended the ceremony at the Palace of Independence in central Minsk.
Streets were sealed off as Mr Lukashenko’s motorcade raced through the city, witnesses said.
One opposition politician likened the event to a secret “thieves’ meeting”.
Presidential inaugurations are normally publicised well in advance as major state occasions.
Instead, state news agency Belta reported on Wednesday: “Alexander Lukashenko has taken office as President of Belarus. The inauguration ceremony is taking place in these minutes in the Palace of Independence.”
Mr Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic for 26 years, said Belarus needed security and consensus “on the brink of a global crisis”, an apparent reference to the coronavirus pandemic, Belta reported.
“I cannot, I have no right to abandon the Belarusians,” he added.