Belarus expels French ambassador amid tensions with EU

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France said on Monday its ambassador to Belarus had left the country on the previous day because authorities in Minsk had asked him to leave after he did not present his credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko.

Local media say the move to kick the ambassador out is linked to the nonrecognition by France and other European Union countries of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election in August 2020.

The Belarusian foreign ministry said the emergency departure of the French ambassador is connected with his unwillingness to present his credentials to Lukashenko.

“The head of the French diplomatic mission did not express readiness to complete the procedure for assuming office as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Belarus, which is stipulated by international law and generally recognised practice,” said Anatoly Glaz, press secretary for the Belarusian foreign ministry. Belarusian Ambassador to France Igor Fisenko was recalled to Minsk for consultations, the Belarusian foreign ministry said.

France’s foreign ministry explained that de Lacoste did not present his credentials to Lukashenko because it was “in line with the common European position of not recognizing the legitimacy of the outcome of the August 2020 presidential election”.

Calls for tougher sanctions

The European Union has imposed waves of sanctions on Lukashenko's regime over a post-vote crackdown on dissent in Belarus after the country erupted in historic protests against his rule.

Lukashenko has since put down the demonstrations, with authorities jailing hundreds of protesters and closing dozens of independent media outlets and NGOs.

All of the country's top opposition leaders are either in prison or have fled the country.

European leaders have also accused Lukashenko's regime of flying undocumented migrants into Poland and the Baltic states in an attempt to blackmail the 27-member bloc.

Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics called on Monday for more economic sanctions on Belarus to increase pressure on Lukashenko.

Rinkevics said sanctioning Belarus's national airline Belavia was one measure that he hoped would be discussed by EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. Austria and the EU's top diplomat immediately voiced support.

"We need to introduce stricter sanctions ... It means to put so-called tourism companies that are organising flights (under sanctions), I also believe that we need to sanction Belavia fully, so that it cannot receive any kind of support," Rinkevics said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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