Bulgaria Joins EU in Diplomatic Pullout from Belarus
Bulgaria is withdrawing its ambassador from Belarus a day after Minsk ordered the ambassadors of Poland and the EU to leave the country, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov has announced.
"After yesterday President Alexander Lukashenko kicked out the ambassadors of Poland and the EU, late last night we decided that all EU member states will pull out their ambassadors from this country," Mladenov said Wednesday, as cited by BNR.
On Wednesday, the Bulgarian Cabinet approved the pullout of Bulgarian Ambassador in Minsk Zahari Radukov, and terminated his term. Radukov is one of the Bulgarian ambassadors who have records at the Bulgarian communist State Security service, and was to be recalled by the Borisov Cabinet anyway.
A European Union decision Tuesday to lay fresh sanctions on Belarus provoked an angry reaction in Minsk and sparked a diplomatic tit-for-tat between the sides, with the 27-member bloc recalling all of its ambassadors.
At a meeting in Brussels, EU ministers agreed to extended travel bans and asset freezes to 21 Belarus officials - which sources identified as 19 judges and two high-ranking police officials - for their involvement in "the repression of civil society and the democratic opposition."
In retaliation, President Aleksandr Lukashenko summoned the heads of the EU and Polish diplomatic delegations and suggested they leave the former Soviet republic immediately, the Interfax news agency reported.
Simultaneously, Belarus ambassadors in Warsaw and Brussels were recalled to Minsk.
Aleksandr Savinikh, a spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, added that Belarus would soon block entry to the country to those EU officials responsible for imposing the sanctions.
Germany quickly followed suit by pulling out its top diplomat from Minsk, DPA reported.
"An act against Poland, an act against the European Union is also an act against us Germans," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Brussels.
Westerwelle said that Europe would not let itself be intimidated or split, calling Lukashenko 'the last dictator we have in Europe.'
EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton then announced that all other EU nations with diplomatic representations in Minsk would take the same step, as an 'expression of solidarity and unity.'
In addition, "all EU member states will also summon Belarusian ambassadors to their foreign ministries," she said in a statement.
The Polish Foreign Ministry had earlier reacted by describing the Belarus move as 'an unfriendly step taken by Belarus towards the whole European Union.'
Conditions for mending fences with the EU are clear, the Polish ministry said: "Putting a stop to repressions against the civil society in Belarus and embarking on the path towards democratization."
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