İrem UZUN -TDO- More than 30 diplomats were on their way back to Warsaw from Belarus on Friday, a Polish deputy foreign minister said, after Minsk asked Poland to scale back the number of staff at its embassy amid tensions over a crackdown on protests.

Poland was pulling back 30 diplomats, chiefly from the consular section, and Lithuania five. The moves come amid a diplomatic tug-of-war over the recent presidential election in Belarus that is widely seen as having been rigged to give authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term.  Last week, Lithuania and Poland recalled their ambassadors to neighboring Belarus for consultations under pressure from Minsk.

In response, Minsk also demanded that the two countries reduce their diplomatic staff in Minsk. “Belarus has made categorical demands to reduce the number of accredited Lithuanian diplomats drastically,” Rasa Jakilaitiene, spokeswoman for the Lithuanian foreign minister, said in a statement. “Together with Poland, we have decided to recall our ambassadors for consultations in order to reduce tensions and to preserve a possibility to maintain diplomatic relations". In Poland, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said Minsk's demand for scaling down of its mission was a “hostile move that Poland will respond to in due time and due form.” 

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