VILNIUS (Reuters) – Four more EU nations, including Germany, are recalling their ambassadors to Belarus in solidarity with Lithuania and Poland, the Lithuanian foreign ministry said on Wednesday, amid continued tensions with Minsk over its crackdown on protesters following a disputed presidential election.
Belarus has accused its neighbours Poland and Lithuania of meddling in its affairs by hosting exiled opposition leaders and refusing to recognise Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in the Aug. 9 poll. His critics say the vote was rigged, which he denies.
Belarus recalled its own ambassadors from Poland and Lithuania last Friday for consultations and asked the two states to scale back the number of staff at their embassies in Minsk.
Lithuania and Poland refused to comply and then recalled their ambassadors to Minsk for consultations in the hope of reducing regional tensions.
Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia are now recalling their envoys to Minsk for consultations, a Lithuanian foreign ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.
Germany did not respond immediately to a request for comment, while a Czech foreign ministry spokeswoman said: “We are considering a reaction in solidarity with Poland and Lithuania.”
Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu described Belarus’s pressure on Poland and Lithuania as “unfounded and unfortunate”.
“In protest against the steps taken by Belarus, we have decided to invite our ambassador from Belarus to Tallinn for consultations,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
The three Baltic republics – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – were the first European Union countries to sanction Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials for alleged election fraud and violence against protesters.
With Belarus rocked by almost daily protests since the election and Western sanctions imposed on him and other top officials, Lukashenko has turned to Russia for financial and diplomatic support to maintain his 26-year grip on power.
(Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague and Thomas Escritt in Berlin; Editing by Gareth Jones)