The United States announced today the reduction of its diplomatic staff in Belarus at the demand of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, which thus responded to the new batch of sanctions adopted by the White House.
“U.S. diplomats have had to leave Belarus today due to the regime’s unfortunate decision to restrict cooperation and dialogue,” the embassy reported on Facebook.
The statement stressed that the American diplomats worked to support the “democratic aspirations” of the Belarusian people.
“Whether in Minsk or elsewhere, U.S. diplomats will continue that vital work,” the note adds.
In mid-August, Minsk responded to the sanctions by forcing Washington to reduce its embassy staff to five diplomats by September 1, as it “sees no point” in such a large presence when the U.S. has staked its bets on “economic strangulation” of the country.
He also withdrew the approval of the American ambassador, Julie Fisher, who had been in neighboring Lithuania for several months waiting to receive the go-ahead from Minsk.
Fisher, who was engaged in European affairs at the State Department and served at the U.S. embassy in Russia, was nominated in April 2020 by then-President Donald Trump, and then approved by the Senate.
However, due to the outbreak of anti-government protests in the former Soviet republic in August 2020, Fisher never took up the post.
The United States has had no ambassador to Belarus since Minsk expelled the head of the American legation in 2008, although Lukashenko agreed to his return in early 2020 at a meeting in Minsk with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
President Joe Biden announced last August 11 the increased sanctions against the former Soviet republic two days after the anniversary of the outbreak of protests against Lukashenko’s fraudulent re-election in August 2020.
The sanctions affect Belaruskali — one of the world’s largest fertilizer companies and its main source of foreign currency in dollars — and the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, as well as key figures and companies in the energy, construction and tobacco sectors.
The United Kingdom and Canada then also joined the sectoral sanctions adopted in May by the European Union due to the forced diversion in May of a Ryanair plane to detain an opposition journalist.