Belarus has blocked the US ambassador from entering the country. The US was also asked to reduce its embassy staff in Minsk to five people by September 1, 2021. This move has come days after the Biden administration imposed another round of sanctions on Belarus.
Washington imposed new sanctions on Belarus on Monday and the actions came on the one-year anniversary of Lukashenko's election to a sixth term in vote that the US and the European Union say was fraudulent.
Belarus denounced the US Action As "Blatant and Openly Hostile"
Anatoly Glaz, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry, criticized the US's acts as "blatant and openly hostile," and revealed that the country was pulling the appointment of Julie Fisher to be U.S. ambassador to Belarus, according to the AP.
"Against the backdrop of Washington's actions to reduce cooperation in all spheres and to economically strangle our country, we quite objectively don't see any sense in the presence of such significant personnel," Glaz said.
Julie Fisher Is the First US Ambassador to Belarus Since 2008
Julie Fisher was sworn in as the first US Ambassador to the Republic of Belarus since 2008 on December 23, 2020.
The country, however, never issued her an entry visa, reports say. Fisher remained in neighboring Lithuania â where she maintains contacts with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger in the Aug. 9, 2020, election who was forced to leave Belarus under pressure from authorities, according to AP.
How did the US Responded When Belarus Decided to Block Entry of Fisher?
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was "disappointed" with the current climate.
However, the US embassy in Minsk, as well as Fisher, will "continue to support the democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus," including by engaging with "leaders of the pro-democracy movement," Price told reporters in Washington, reported DW News.
Price defended the White House's decision to slap new sanctions on Belarus, according to The Hill.
"It is important to remember in all of this and to acknowledge that Belarusian authorities are responsible for the deterioration in US-Belarus relations through relentless repression against their citizens," Price said.
Retaliatory Move by Belarus
Belarus blocking entry of US ambassador is seen as a retaliatory move after the Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions against Belarus on Monday. This came after Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus's potassium and petroleum products.
In August last year, protests erupted across Belarus following a disputed presidential election. Several western countries say that Lukashenko is carrying out brutal crackdown on opponents.
However, Lukashenko had denied that his government was using torture and violence to clamp down on decent. He also denied his country's involvement in a death of an activist Ukraine. The President further said that the Belarusian sprinter who defected at the Olympics had been manipulated by the outside forces.