Lukashenko defends re-election in Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko has confronted his critics - rejecting claims that the Belarussian presidential poll was rigged. Official figures mean the man Washington has described as Europe's last truedictator can now start a third term in office.

Electoral authorities say he won over 82 per cent of the vote while his nearest rival took only six per cent.

"Let me say that the revolution so many people talked about and some were preparing has failed and it could not be otherwise," Lukashenko told a news conference.

The election outcome means the status quo has been maintained in a country widely seen as a last bastion of Soviet-style government. Despite his authoritarian regime, Lukashenko is genuinely popular with many, especially elderly and rural voters. At the helm for 12 years, he portrays his country as being under siege from the West. The European Union's reaction to the disputed election is likely to pile further pressure on Belarus.

The bloc is set to sharpen sanctions against the former Soviet republic where President Lukashenko has threatened to "wring the necks" of anyone who tries to seize power through a popular uprising.