Belarus has asked the ambassador of the EU and the Polish ambassador to leave the country after a diplomatic human rights row. It has also recalled its own ambassadors from Brussels and Warsaw.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry retaliated against a number of new EU sanctions imposed over the county's human rights record on Tuesday by requesting that the EU and Polish ambassadors to Minsk leave Belarus.
They were advised to "return to their capitals for consultations to communicate to their leadership the firm position of the Belarusian side that pressure and sanctions are unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh said in a statement.
The permanent Belarus representative at the European Union and the ambassador in Poland were also recalled to Minsk.
European affairs ministers on Monday agreed an assets freeze and visa ban against 19 magistrates and two highly placed police officers who are suspected of stifling Belarus' political opposition.
Some 210 people have already been blacklisted by the EU over President Alexander Lukashenko's tough stance on civil dissent. The president was re-elected for a fourth term in December 2010 triggering mass demonstrations which saw the arrest of several opposition candidates who ran against him.
Poland, which has led the campaign to impose sanctions on Belarus, asserted Tuesday that Minsk's latest move would not alter its condemnation of civil oppression.
"We are not changing our stance about the necessity of the sanctions," said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. "But it's hard for me to comment on this particular situation"
ccp/ncy (Reuters, AFP)