Belarus to cut U.S. embassy staff amid retaliatory sanctions

MINSK – Belarus has announced that it is reducing the authorized number of diplomats and other staff at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk and tightening visa procedures for U.S. citizens, in response to American sanctions imposed on this Eastern European country following a radical repression of the opposition.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anatoly Glaz made the announcement June 3, without providing details.

Glaz said permission for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in the country has also been revoked.

“These measures are targeted. They are designed to send a clear signal to the United States about the futility of pressure and coercion in relations with Belarus, ”he said.

The move comes as US sanctions imposed on nine Belarusian state-owned companies following Belarus’s forced hijacking of a Ryanair flight on May 23 and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board came into effect.

“Actions have consequences. Due to the regime’s continued disregard for human rights, the United States has terminated permission to do business with nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises. The escalation of the regime’s repressive tactics will not go unanswered, ”tweeted US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier today.

The White House announced the US measures in late May, saying Washington was also coordinating with the European Union and other partners to develop a list of targeted sanctions against key members of the Belarusian government “associated with continued human rights violations. man and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 election, and the events of May 23. “

Glaz on June 3 called the United States “illegal actions, contrary to international law and designed to put pressure on a sovereign state.”

Belarus has seen unprecedented protests against authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled the country since 1994, following a disputed presidential election in August which the opposition says was rigged and which many Western countries refused to accept. to acknowledge.

Lukashenka led a brutal post-election crackdown in which nearly 30,000 people were arrested, many sentenced to long prison terms, hundreds beaten, several killed and journalists targeted.