Ukraine withdraws ambassador from Belarus following Lukashenko’s attacks Copy
Ukraine is withdrawing its ambassador from Belarus in protest to recent unfriendly steps from President Aleksandr Lukashenko, whose 26-year dictatorship is under threat by massive public protests to his attempt to steal the Aug. 9 election.
In a statement published Aug. 17, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs particularly mentioned Lukashenko’s Aug. 15 transfer of detained Wagner Group mercenaries to Russia despite Kyiv’s request of extradition.
“This step has derailed the trust between our nations and inflicted a heavy blow upon our bilateral relations,” the press service quoted Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying.
Besides, the message added, Lukashenko recently made a whole range of overtly hostile statements, “repeated and groundless” regarding Ukraine. In particular, Lukashenko on Aug. 16 accused Ukraine of plotting against Belarus along with other neighboring nations and NATO, as well as of forcing the country into new presidential elections aimed at ousting Lukashenko from power and enslaving Belarusians.
He made his claims in a highly emotional addresses during pro-regime rallies in Minsk organized by authorities as a counterbalance to nationwide popular protests against Lukashenko’s rule.
Massive rallies continue across the nation since Aug. 9, when Lukashenko was declared the winner of yet another presidential election, having secured 80% of votes, according to the Belarusian authorities. Protesters deem the results overtly rigged and demand that Lukashenko resign.
Aug. 17 saw the biggest rally in the Belarusian history, with nearly 200,000 protesters marching through the capital city Minsk.
As protests escalated amid a brutal crackdown by riot police, Lukashenko on Aug. 14 handed to Russia 32 Wagner Group mercenaries who had previously been arrested outside Minsk on charges of attempting to destabilize the situation in the country amid the hot presidential campaign.
Ukraine officially requested the extradition of 28 Wagner militants on the grounds of their suspected participation in hostilities against Ukrainian troops in Donbas. Following their sudden transfer back to Moscow, Lukashenko also contacted President Vladimir Putin of Russia regarding a “security assistance” against “the external threat” to Belarus, which was perceived by many as a request for the Kremlin’s direct intervention to help Lukashenko hold on to power.
“The combination of the mentioned facts and actions, as well as of the course of events in Belarus in which the society gave a non-confidence note to presidential elections’ results, is radically changing the Ukrainian-Belarusian relations,” minister Kuleba also said.
“Upon that, I have made a decision to withdraw Ukraine’s Ambassador to Belarus Ihor Kyzym for consultations in Kyiv… It is the first time we adhere to such a step in relations with Belarus, and we do this exclusively due to Minsk’s unacceptable moves.”
The ministry added that the withdrawal would not affect its ability to protect Ukrainian nationals in Belarus, and recommended that all Ukrainians in the country avoid mass gatherings.