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Archive for Belarus

Newsline: US prepared to exchange ambassadors with Belarus after years of tensions

The United States is prepared to exchange ambassadors with Belarus, a top-ranking State Department official announced — a significant step in thawing relations between the two countries. “It is my honor to announce that we are prepared to exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing our relationship,” Undersecretary for Political Affairs David Hale said in a statement delivered in the capital city of Minsk. The US has not had an ambassador to Belarus since 2008, when the Belarusian government expelled the ambassador and 30 out of 35 US diplomats. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/17/politics/us-belarus-ambassadors/index.html) Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko — who has been in power for 25 years and is nicknamed “Europe’s last dictator” — and more than a dozen other Belarusian officials were sanctioned by the US in 2006 after a presidential election “that violated international norms and was neither free nor fair,” according to the US State Department. President Donald Trump extended those sanctions in mid-June. In 2015, in exchange for the release of Belarusian political prisoners, the US lifted sanctions on nine state-owned entities.

Newsline: Kyrgyz FM Summons Belarusian Ambassador

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Bishkek to give explanations about a meeting between President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and fugitive former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The ministry said on August 7 that Ambassador Syarhey Ivanou was handed a note of protest. “The Kyrgyz side views it as absolutely unacceptable that during the meeting [between Lukashenka and Bakiev] the Kyrgyz Republic’s national symbols were used…which completely contradicts principles of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.” (https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyz-fm-summons-belarusian-ambassador-over-lukashenka-bakiev-meeting/30097537.html) Lukashenka’s official website said on August 6 that the Belarusian leader met with Bakiev in his office in Minsk on the occasion of the former Kyrgyz president’s 70th birthday, which he had marked several days earlier. Bakiev and some of his family members and associates have been residing in Belarus since April 2010 after he was toppled by violent anti-government protests.

Newsline: Belarus embassy official wounded by gunshot in Turkey

The undersecretary of administrative affairs at the Belarusian embassy in Ankara was wounded by gunshot late Wednesday. According to reports, the official, Alexander Poganshev, was taking a walk with his 13-year-old child near the embassy in Oran neighborhood in Çankaya district when a man opened fire on him. It was learned that there was a longstanding feud between the diplomat and the attacker, who was a retired colonel and his neighbor. The attacker later shot himself in the head and died. (https://www.dailysabah.com/investigations/2019/07/24/belarus-embassy-official-wounded-by-gunshot-in-personal-dispute-with-retired-soldier-in-ankara) Poganshev was immediately taken into surgery, and is now receiving treatment at the intensive care unit (ICU). Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that an attack earlier in the day on a Belarusian diplomat was not politically motivated.

Newsline: Diplomatic row between Belarus and Russia

Though Belarus-Russia relations have deteriorated due to the clash over oil revenues, the recent diplomatic row might also signal a deeper crisis in the relations between the two states. While Russia is hesitating to compensate Belarus for the losses resulting from Russia’s changing policies (the so-called tax “manoeuvre”), Minsk is getting more nervous. As a result, on 21 March 2019, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official comment regarding the major diplomatic row between Minsk and Moscow. Belarusian and Russian diplomats have exchanged mutual reproaches in a rather undiplomatic manner. Whilst the Russian Ambassador to Belarus, Mikhail Babich, told Belarusians “not to teach Russia how to live,” Belarus Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatol Glaz, blamed Babich for misunderstanding “the difference between a federal district and an independent state.” (https://belarusdigest.com/story/a-major-diplomatic-row-between-minsk-and-moscow-explained) In August 2018, Vladimir Putin appointed diplomat Babich, former Chairman of the Government of the Chechen Republic, as Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, two years after an unsuccessful attempt to send Babich as an envoy to Ukraine. Upon his arrival in Belarus, Babich immediately started raising financial aspects in the relations between the two states. However, it was Babich’s latest interview to RIA Novosti that caused the major uproar among his Belarusian colleagues. In his scandalous interview on 1 March 2019, Babich commented on Lukashenka’s statements made during the so-called “Great Talk with the President”. In particular, Babich rebuked Lukashenka’s recent criticism of the Russian leadership which “lobbies oligarchic groups”: “All I can say is that no one should teach Russia and its government how to live, especially since there are [already] enough in the world who want to do so.” Soon Anatol Glaz harshly commented on the assessment of Belarus-Russia relations voiced by Babich. Grigory Karasin, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, made an official statement that Russia expected a more respectful attitude to its Ambassador from the side of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently tried to settle down the diplomatic scandal. On 21 March, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement that “Belarus remains Russia’s chief strategic partner” and “the inter-state dialogue should always stay professional and correct”.

Newsline: Ukraine Expels Belarusian Diplomat Amid Spy Scandal

Ukraine has expelled a Belarusian diplomat amid a spy scandal between the two neighboring countries. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maryana Betsa said that a Belarusian diplomat had been declared persona non grata and expelled from Ukraine in response to the Belarusian government’s decision the previous day to expel diplomat Ihor Skvortsov from the Ukrainian Embassy in Minsk. The name of the expelled Belarusian diplomat was not disclosed. Belarusian officials said on November 20 that Skvortsov had been allegedly involved in espionage.


Newsline: Dutch Embassy Office opens in Minsk

An Office of the Embassy of the Netherlands was opened in Minsk on 10 July. The ceremony was attended by Vladimir Makei, Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Johanna Brandt, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, BelTA has learned. According to Johanna Brandt, the opening of the diplomatic mission is a landmark event for the Netherlands and Belarus, particularly considering the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. She commented on the status of the relations between Belarus and the Netherlands in the context of the developments of the past several years in Belarus and the fact that the country borders on the European Union.


Newsline: Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Hopes for Quick Resolution of Border Issues

Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Igor Petrishenko told Sputnik he hoped for a quick settlement of the situation related to the border control between the two states. In January, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree under which citizens of 80 countries can enter Belarus through the checkpoint of the Minsk National Airport and stay during five days without a visa. The decree, which affects Russia due to the free movement regime between the countries under the Union State of Russia and Belarus, entered into force in February. Russia in its turn established a border zone in Pskov, Smolensk and Bryansk regions on the border with Belarus to block illegal transit migration, drug trafficking and illegal movement of material assets in the wake of Lukashenko’s decree. The move was criticized by Minsk. “One of the current problems, which raises concern and criticism among citizens of Belarus and Russia, as well as among nationals of third countries, is some of the… changes related to crossing the Belarusian-Russian border…,” Petrishenko said. The ambassador pointed out that establishment of the border zones and restoring passport control created many difficulties for the Russian and Belarusian citizens.