Belarus and Latvia expel diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said on Monday, May 24, that the Latvian ambassador to Minsk, Einars Semanis, has to leave the territory of Belarus within 24 hours.

Almost all of the embassy staff are to be expelled with him. Belarus took the decision on the expulsion of Latvian diplomats in response to events in Rīga, where the official flag of Belarus (red-green) was replaced by the historic (white-red-white) flag in several locations during the World Hockey Championship. Makei has called this an act of “national vandalism”. The white-red-white flag is also a symbol of resisance to dictator Alexander Lukashenko, to whom Makei has been unswervingly loyal.

 

“We requested Latvia to carry out an investigation. To apologize and put the Belarusian flag back in place. A protest note has been submitted to the ambassador. We cannot leave such provocative actions without response,” the Belarusian foreign minister said.

The Latvian ambassador, Einars Semanis, was summoned to the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday afternoon, where he was informed that Semanis and almost all of the embassy officials should leave the territory of Belarus. Only one technical officer could stay in the embassy.

 

 

"The ambassador has been invited to leave Belarus within 24 hours. All diplomatic and administratively technical members of the embassy are invited to leave Belarus within 48 hours. One technical officer can be left here to look after the building," the Belarusian foreign minister said.

In response to the actions taken by Belarus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia has summoned the Chargé d’ Affaires, a. i., of Belarus to inform him of reciprocal measures including the expulsion of Belarusian diplomats "until a time when the relationship returns to normal".

Latvia was also encouraged to act by events on Sunday in Belarus, where authorities seized a Ryanair passenger plane on its way from Athens to Vilnius, and forced it to land in Minsk under threat of a MiG fighter so that the Belarusian special services could arrest Lukashenko critic and journalist Roman Protasevich, whose whereabouts and fate are uncertain.

 

 

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