Belarus to cut US embassy staff in retaliatory sanctions

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MINSK – Belarus said it was reducing the number of diplomats and other staff allowed at the US Embassy in Minsk and tightening visa procedures for US citizens, in response to US sanctions imposed on this Eastern European country following a sweeping crackdown on the opposition.

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

Glaz said permission for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to work in the country has also been revoked.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 dealing with Belarus,” he said.

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

“Actions have consequences. Due to the regime’s continued disregard for human rights, the United States terminated authorization to do business with nine Belarusian state-owned enterprises. The regime’s escalating repressive tactics will not go unaddressed,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted 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 ongoing human rights abuses. man and corruption, the falsification of the 2020 elections and the events of May 23.”

On June 3, Glaz called the US measures “unlawful 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 that the opposition say was rigged and that many Western countries have refused to recognize.

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.

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