‘Legitimately observing protests’: London reacts strongly as two UK diplomats kicked out of Belarus for ‘destructive’ activities
London maintains that the two officials were kicked out for “legitimately observing protests,” and there are no grounds for their expulsion.
On Tuesday morning, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that British defense attaché Timothy Wight-Boycott and Deputy Mission Head Lisa Thumwood had each been declared ‘persona non grata’ on November 8.Also on rt.com Brussels vs. Lukashenko: EU to impose additional sanctions on Minsk, targeting both President and his son, sources tell TASS
“The Belarusian side took the decision solely because of the confirmed destructive nature of the said persons’ activities,” said Anatoly Glaz, the spokesman for the ministry said, adding: “This decision in no way closes the doors for dialogue with our British colleagues.”
According to Glaz, the diplomats had repeatedly met with representatives of opposition and human rights organizations, and had received warnings to stop, which were ultimately ignored.
In response, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab attacked the expulsions as “wholly unjustified,” explaining that the two had been removed for “legitimately observing protests.”
“As independent reports show, this is part of a concerted campaign of harassment aimed at activists, media and now diplomats.” the statement on the official UK government website reads. “[Belarusian President] Lukashenko must agree to free and fair elections and enable those responsible for violence against demonstrators to be held to account.”
The UK will not be cowed by the attempts of Lukashenko’s regime to stop us speaking out about the rigged election & the despicable violence against the Belarusian people. Today, we have expelled 2 Belarusian diplomats in response to the unjustified expulsion of 🇬🇧 diplomats.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) November 10, 2020
As is diplomatic custom, London reciprocated by expelling two Belarusian diplomats from the UK.
Protests have been taking place in Belarus since August 9, after the country's presidential election was won by incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko. According to the official results, 80.1 percent of voters voted for the long-time president, with just 10.12 percent voting for his most prominent opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. After the closing of the polling stations, demonstrations began against the alleged falsification of results, with the opposition claiming that the vote was rigged. In the weeks since, protests have become less frequent, but still attract thousands of participants every weekend.
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