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Monday, November 23, 2020

UK Foreign Office expels Belarusian diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Britain has sent home two Belarusian diplomats in response to the expulsion of two UK diplomats by Minsk. The spat comes after the UK imposed a travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko and his son in September.

By: Deutsche Welle | November 11, 2020 4:32:55 pm
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

The UK Foreign Office on Monday said it was expelling two Belarusian diplomats in direct response to two British diplomats being declared “persona non-grata” in Minsk.

“We have sent a clear message today… that their unjustified expulsion of British diplomats has consequences,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

Minsk said it was expelling the two senior British diplomats on Monday, citing the “destructive nature” of their activities.

Britain imposed travel bans on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his son and other senior officials in September as a response to the election issues and subsequent violence against protesters.

Belarus’s ONT television channel on Tuesday reported that the two British diplomats had already left the country. It named them as the deputy head of the UK mission in Belarus, Lisa Thumwood, and defense attaché Timothy Wight-Boycott.

The channel said the diplomats had been collecting information about protests and the general political situation. They were also said to have repeatedly met representatives of rights groups and non-governmental organizations.

‘Rigged election’ questions

In his statement, Raab added that the UK would continue to demand that President Alexander Lukashenko’s government address questions about its alleged fixing of a presidential election in August.

“The UK will continue to hold the Belarusian authorities to account for the rigged election in August and their ongoing use of violence to suppress the Belarusian people,” he said.

The European Union last week officially joined Britain in imposing sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his 44-year-old son Viktor, who serves as a security adviser.

Belarus has witnessed three months of mass protests since official election results showed Lukashenko garner 80% of the vote, despite widespread support for his rival Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, has refused dialogue with opponents and accused Western countries of fomenting the protests.

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