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Several EU ambassadors recalled out of Minsk

October 8, 2020

After Belarus accused Lithuania and Poland of "destructive" meddling, several EU countries temporarily pulled their envoys out of Minsk. Bulgaria called for "immediate and unconditional" release of political prisoners.

'Stop political repressions in Belarus' banner is seen during a demonstration at the Main Square
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/B. Zawrzel

Bulgaria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic on Thursday became the latest nations to temporarily recall their ambassadors from Minsk amid a diplomatic row.

The envoys would travel to their respective home countries for consultations, in a gesture of solidarity with Poland and Lithuania, which Belarus had accused of "destructive activity."

Poland and Lithuania temporarily recalled their envoys earlier this week, followed by Estonia and Latvia. While some reports indicated that Germany's envoy also traveled from Minsk to Berlin, the German foreign ministry did not immediately confirm the trip.

While announcing the move on Thursday, Slovakian Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said that "[s]teps taken by Belarus against other EU Member states are unacceptable."

"EU remains united in its support of people of Belarus," he said on Twitter.

Bulgaria also called for "the immediate and unconditional release of all the (jailed) political prisoners" in Belarus.

Protesters show resilience

The regime of strongman Alexander Lukashenko faces a robust protest movement after the disputed presidential election in August.  Lukashenko's main rival, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, fled to Lithuania after the vote. Despite repeated police crackdowns,  protesters continue their pressure on Lukashenko to step down.

Poland and Lithuania are among most vocal critics of the Lukashenko regime and are encouraging other European nations to support the protest movement. Last Friday, Belarus Foreign Ministry said Minsk was recalling Belarusian ambassadors from Warsaw and Vilnius. Belarus also advised Poland and Lithuania to downsize their missions in Minsk due to "the unambiguously destructive activity of those countries."

Nobody left but Putin

Poland and Lithuania refused to downsize, but agreed to call their ambassadors back for consultations in a bid to reduce tensions with the neighboring country.

The string of diplomatic rebukes this week indicate Lukashenko's increasingly isolated position and his dependence on Moscow. Russia's Vladimir Putin has pledged to support the Belarus government with a massive loan and also assist on security if the situation got out of hand. Despite this show of friendship, however, the two post-Soviet leaders have clashed on a string of issues in recent years, including the arrest of Russian mercenaries in the run-up to the August election.

dj/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa)