Monday

8th Mar 2021

Investigation

EU ambassadors trickle back to Minsk

  • A recent ad campaign by NGO Amnesty International showing Lukashenko as a cake (Photo: Amnesty International)

All EU ambassadors are returning to Minsk in a bid to improve deteriorating relations with Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in power for the past 18 years.

“All EU ambassadors are returning to Minsk, including our own ambassador," a spokesman for Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office told Reuters on Wednesday (25 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

EU ambassadors left Belarus in March in a display of solidarity when Lukashenko kicked out Polish envoy and the EU envoy in February for helping draw up new sanctions against the regime.

The sanctions targeted 29 Belarusian companies, blocked numerous accounts, and banned the travel into the EU of 12 additional officials, judges and police officers suspected of supporting Lukashenko’s crackdown on the opposition. Over 200 Belarus entities and people now find themselves on the EU blacklist.

Minsk, in a tit-for-tat response, recalled their own permanent representatives stationed in the EU, as well as their ambassador to Poland. But Minsk is now returning their envoys as well: Belarus' ambassadors to Poland and Belgium arrived on Wednesday.

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski told media on Wednesday that the country's ambassador to Belarus “has already crossed the Polish-Belarusian border ... European solidarity appeared to be effective in this case,” he told Radio Free Europe.

Ambassadors from Sweden and Lithuania also crossed the border into Belarus on Wednesday, says Belarus opposition website Charter 97. The Czech ambassador to Belarus is reportedly returning on Friday.

The EU has been demanding the unconditional release all political prisoners before normalising ties with the increasingly isolated regime. The EU pressure appears to have partly worked, with Lukashenko on 14 and 15 April freeing prominent opposition politician Andrei Sannikov and his aide Dmitry Bondarenko.

Sannikov, a former presidential candidate, had over the past 16 months been submitted to torture and solitary confinement at the labour camp in Vitebsk, northeast Belarus. He has since rejoined his wife and five-year old son, both of whom had been under house arrest with movement limited to inside Minsk.

Bondarenko had been sentenced to two years in a penal colony in Mogilev, near the border with Russia.

His wife, Volha told this reporter in November 2011 that the KGB had tried to force him into signing a letter of confession and give evidence against others. “I know Dmitry will be released. I have hope,” she said.

Both men had been convicted of disturbing the peace for organising a demonstration against Lukashenko’s fraudulent reelection on December 2010. Both were given a presidential pardon.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is calling upon the regime to release all remaining political prisoners, including human rights defender Ales Byalyatski and opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka.

'Lukashenko put cucumbers in my trunk'

Belarus' former leader - Stanislav Shushkevich - says Lukashenko is an "arse-kisser" whose power will wane if the EU imposes economic sanctions.

Agenda

EU 'Future' Conference plus Covid recovery talks This WEEK

MEPs will give the green light for a more united EU health policy, a new investment plan, and debate the Covid recovery fund, which is yet to be unleashed. Lawmakers will also debate media freedom in Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia.

EU Commission cannot hold Frontex to account

MEPs probing the EU's border agency Frontex cross-examined the agency's director. They also spoke to EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, who made it clear she had little sway over the agency.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Frontex's 'serious incident reports' - revealed
  2. Women hit 'disproportionately' hard by Covid-19, report finds
  3. EU 'Future' Conference plus Covid recovery talks This WEEK
  4. Covid-19 recovery: How to miss the target even with a bazooka
  5. Who cares? Precarious situation facing 21st century heroines
  6. China and Russia abusing corona for geopolitics, Lithuania says
  7. Worries on Europe's infection surge, after six-week drop
  8. EU wants large firms to report on gender pay-gap or face fines

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us