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French ambassador ordered out of Belarus

No official reason given but media reports say diplomat expelled as he handed his credentials to Belarus FM and not President Lukashenko.

France’s ambassador has reportedly been ordered out of Belarus and has already left the country.

AFP news agency, citing the French embassy in Minsk, did not say why the ambassador, Nicolas de Bouillane de Lacoste, was expelled.

Belarusian media reported that Minsk had recalled its ambassador to Paris, Igor Fesenko, and added that Lacoste was expelled because he never met President Alexander Lukashenko to give him copies of his credentials.

Instead, he gave them to Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, according to the French embassy.

Lukashenko, according to reports in the Belarus media, took that as a snub.

“Ambassador Nicolas de Lacoste left Belarus today,” an embassy spokesperson said.

“He said goodbye to the staff of the embassy and recorded a video message to the Belarusian people, which will appear tomorrow morning on the embassy’s website.”

France, like other European Union countries, has not recognised Lukashenko’s claim to a sixth presidential term in disputed elections in August last year.

The EU and the United States have 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.

But the 67-year-old leader, who has accused Western governments of having instigated the protests in the hope of fomenting a revolution, has so far withstood the penalties with the backing of ally and creditor Moscow.

Minsk has cut ties with other Western envoys in recent months.

In March, it expelled the entire staff of Latvia’s embassy, including the ambassador, after Latvian authorities used a Belarusian opposition flag at an ice hockey championship.

In August, Minsk revoked the consent for the appointment of the US ambassador – career diplomat Julie Fisher, who in December had been confirmed as the first US envoy to the ex-Soviet country since 2008.

Lukashenko has since put down the demonstrations against his rule, the 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.




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