Latvia expels Belarusian ambassador and all diplomats as response step

Latvia expels Belarusian ambassador and all diplomats as response step

Latvia is expelling Belarus’ ambassador and all the diplomats of the Belarusian embassy in response to Minsk’s demand that the Latvian ambassador and all embassy employees leave the country, Latvian foreign ministry spokesman Janis Bekeris said.

"We can confirm that Latvian Ambassador to Belarus Einars Semanis was summoned to the Belarusian foreign ministry today to hear the Belarusian side’s demand he and all the employees of the embassy leave that country," he said. "In response, the Latvian foreign ministry summoned Belarus’ Charge d’Affaires to notify the Belarusian side about a similar step in respect of Belarusian diplomats until the relations between the countries are normalized."

According to Bekeris, Latvia’s ambassador was given 24 hours to leave Belarus while other embassy employees have 48 hours. Only one Latvian diplomat will be allowed to stay in Minsk, TASS reported.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey said earlier on Monday the Latvian ambassador and all embassy employees had been strongly advised to leave Minsk following an incident with the Belarusian flag in the Latvian capital city Riga. The Belarusian national flag in front of the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija in downtown Riga, where teams participating in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are staying, was replaced with a white-red-white banner on Monday. According to Latvia’s LETA news agency, it was done by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevic and Riga Mayor Martins Stakis.

The move followed Sunday’s incident when a Ryanair flight en route from Athens to Vilnius was forced to land at Minsk’s airport after a reported bomb threat. The plane landed safely and no bomb was found on board. Roman Protasevich, one of the co-founders of the Nexta Telegram channel, which was recognized as extremist in Belarus, was among the passengers. Protasevich, currently living in Lithuania and wanted in Belarus, was detained after the airliner had landed in the Belarusian capital. The plane left Minsk and continued on to Vilnius late on Sunday.