İrem UZUN -TDO- The UK Foreign Office on Monday said it was expelling two Belarusian diplomats in direct response to two British diplomats being declared "persona non-grata" in Minsk. "We have sent a clear message today... that their unjustified expulsion of British diplomats has consequences," British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
Raab said the expulsions ran counter to diplomatic norms since the two diplomats had been carrying out legitimate duties. “The expulsion of two UK diplomats from Belarus for legitimately observing protests is wholly unjustified. Lukashenko can’t hide the oppression of his own people,” Raab said on Twitter.
The move came after the British diplomats, including a defence attache, were ordered home from the capital. The British diplomats were expelled on Monday after Belarus objected to their observation of street protests in Minsk on Sunday. Belarus has seen three months of mass protests since official election results showed Lukashenko winning a sixth term with 80% of the vote. The UK has called for a new election to be held and imposed sanctions on the Belarusian leader and his allies following a violent crackdown on protesters. Raab accused Lukashenko of a concerted campaign of harassment aimed at activists, media and now diplomats. “Instead of trying to bully those shining a light on his repression, Mr. Lukashenko must agree to free and fair elections and enable those responsible for violence against demonstrators to be held to account,” he said.