The European Union refuses to recognise Alexander Lukashenko as president of Belarus, saying the August election results and his inauguration this week lacked democratic legitimacy, the EU's diplomatic chief has said.

"The European Union does not recognise their falsified results. On this basis, the so-called 'inauguration' of 23 September 2020 and the new mandate claimed by Aleksander Lukashenko lack any democratic legitimacy," Josep Borrell said.

Ignoring calls for an end to his 26-year grip on power, Mr Lukashenko was yesterday sworn in for a sixth term after an election the opposition and several foreign governments say was rigged.

Belarusian security forces detained people and fired water cannon to disperse crowds as thousands took to the streets of Minsk in protest against the abrupt inauguration of Mr Lukashenko.

The ceremony would normally have been publicised as a major state occasion but was instead held without warning following President Lukashenko's claim of a landslide victory in the 9 August vote.

The ex-Soviet republic's opposition, which has staged more than six weeks of mass protests demanding his resignation, denounced the inauguration as illegitimate.

"His secret inauguration is an attempt to seize power," said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Mr Lukashenko's main opponent who fled into exile after the election.

The United States and European Union are drawing up sanctions against officials involved in the election and a subsequent crackdown on protesters by the security forces.