Belarus rejects U.S. ambassador over sanctions

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Belarus revoked its consent to the appointment of Julie Fisher as the U.S. ambassador to the country and demanded Washington reduce its Minsk embassy staff to five people by September 1, the Belarusian foreign ministry said Wednesday.

The move came after the U.S., U.K. and Canada issued fresh trade, financial and aviation sanctions on Belarus on Monday, in a bid to increase pressure on the regime of the country’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko. The package was announced on the first anniversary of a disputed presidential election that saw Lukashenko remain in power and launch a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and the press.

“The arrogant and frankly hostile actions of the American side … forced us to revoke the previously issued consent of the Republic of Belarus to the appointment of J. Fisher as the U.S. ambassador to our country,” Belarus foreign ministry spokesman Anatoly Glaz said, adding that Minsk “has lost trust in the current U.S. administration.”

The statement from Glaz came in the form of a Q&A with RIA Novosti, a Russian state-owned news agency. Glaz said: “Against the backdrop of Washington’s actions to reduce cooperation in all spheres and its economic strangulation of our country, we completely objectively do not see any point in the presence of such significant personnel in the American diplomatic mission in Belarus … it’s just unclear what they would be doing.”

Responding to the move, the U.S. embassy in Belarus noted in a statement the “threats, attempts to intimidate, and a further diminution of space for dialogue” in Belarus, and said the “responsibility for the deterioration in U.S.-Belarus relations lies with the regime.”

It added: “U.S. diplomats will continue to engage with Belarusians, including leaders of the pro-democracy movement, media professionals, students, teachers, athletes and other members of civil society.”

Fisher, who was nominated by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020, was the first U.S. ambassador to Belarus to be named since 2008. But while the Senate confirmed her nomination in December, she has been unable to take up her post as Belarus has blocked her from entering the country.

Fisher tweeted: “Today’s actions only reinforce our efforts in support of the Belarusian people. The way out of the crisis is not reducing dialogue and engagement but increasing it. Our team remains all in and will continue to #StandWithBelarus.”

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