Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Lukashenko hints at being president for life as sworn in for fifth term

Max Tyrkalov, The Guardian

Belarusian leader in charge since 1994 is inaugurated after landslide victory with an ominous promise to serve till the end

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has been inaugurated for his fifth term in office, using his speech to suggest that he intends to stay in power until he dies.

Lukashenko, who won a landslide victory in presidential elections boycotted by most credible opposition figures, has been in power in Belarus since 1994.

Three of his sons attended the ceremony - including 11-year-old Kolya, who Lukashenko is said to be grooming as his successor.

The president, referred to as the last dictator in Europe by the Bush administration in the US, rejected calls for economic reforms demanded by the IMF in return for much-needed financial aid.

Too many people talk about structural reform these days but nobody has mentioned what these reforms are, he said. This would mean smashing the political system, the entire government of Belarus, in pieces, divide and give away state, peoples property.

About 80% of the Belarusian economy remains in state hands.

Lukashenkos standing on the world stage has increased since the outbreak of conflict in neighbouring Ukraine because of his role as a broker between Russia and the west. Talks between Ukraine, Moscow, Russia-backed rebels and European leaders were held in Minsk in February, paving the way towards a ceasefire.

The west was able to see Belarus as a decent partner, he said during his speech. We have always argued that attempts to isolate Belarus, like other countries, lead to a dead end. In this situation, everyone loses.

Despite having close historical ties to Moscow, Lukashenko has been keen to emphasise his countrys autonomy since the war in Ukraine. We will ensure the interests of both the east and the west in Belarus, he said. Dont try to rip us apart; dont try to make us collide with Russia or with the west.

He ended the speech with a promise to serve the country until his final days seen by his pro-democracy opponents as an ominous ambition to stay in power indefinitely: I have only you, the people of Belarus, and I will serve to the last of my days.