Belarus lashes out at the US, reducing embassy staff numbers

In a statement announcing the move on Thursday, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it was reducing the number of both “diplomatic and administrative-technical” staff at the embassy, without specifying the number of staff that will be affected.

The ministry’s press secretary Anatoly Glaz said that in addition to the staff reduction, Belarus will also tighten visa procedures and revoke permission for USAID to work in the country.

“The US Charge d’Affaires in Belarus was invited to the Foreign Ministry today and retaliatory measures were announced to him,” Glaz said in the statement.

The Biden administration announced in April it would no longer allow US transactions with nine sanctioned Belarusian state-owned enterprises due to human rights violations by the Lukashenko government. After a 45-day wind-down period, these sanctions went back into effect on Thursday.

Glaz said the measures introduced by Belarus were “targeted” and “designed to send a clear signal to the United States about the futility of pressure and coercion in relations with Belarus.”

“As before, we are not disposed to escalate and are ready to continue contacts with the American side on the principles of equality and mutual respect,” he said.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that the US has been informed of the new restrictions, which will take effect on June 13.

He said the administration was “disappointed, to put it mildly, to be where (they) are now” in relations with Belarus.

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Price said that US Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher will “continue to support the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian people, and she’ll continue to engage with them from outside of Belarus.”

Fisher was sworn in as the first US Ambassador to Belarus since 2008 in December last year, but is not based in the country.

Price said she will continue to engage with “the pro-democracy movements media professionals, students, and other members of civil society, to express our support.”

Fisher has been traveling to different European countries in recent weeks and Price said he expected she will “continue to do so going forward.”

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