Belarus kicks out U.S. diplomats

Ten American diplomats have been asked to leave Belarus within 72 hours. The U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Minsk, Jonathan Moore, was summoned to the Belarus Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to receive the news.

Officials handed Moore a list of people declared persona non grata in Belarus, and told to reduce the number of U.S. diplomats in the Republic to five – not including the ambassador.

The expulsions are the latest round of a diplomatic row between the two countries, which began in March 2008 when the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against the Belarusian state oil company “Belneftekhim”.

Authorities there froze the firm’s bank accounts in the U.S., shut its offices, and advised American firms not to co-operate with the company.

At the beginning of March, the U.S. Treasury recommended that sanctions be imposed against any company where “Belneftekhim” owns 50% or more of the shares. These companies include Belarus’s most important exporters.

The government in Minsk promised retaliatory measures if the sanctions were not lifted.

The U.S. Embassy in Belarus has since reduced the number of their diplomats there to 17.

The Belarus Foreign Ministry is now calling for a further reduction in U.S. diplomats.