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EU to reduce number of diplomats in Belarus

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EU to reduce number of diplomats in Belarus

Photo: Sergei Chirikov/Pool via Reuters

Today marks the deadline given by the Belarusian government for the reduction of Polish and Lithuanian diplomatic personnel in the country.

The decision—intended to combat what Belarus considers EU encroachment on its sovereignty—was made by Alexander Lukashenko who was recently re-inaugurated as president, prolonging his 26-year rule over the country. Domestic opposition and the EU have disputed the results and decried Lukashenko’s perceived authoritarian excesses.

Expect both sides to dig their heels in as Belarus announced retaliatory sanctions in response to the EU’s unanimous decision to sanction members of the Lukashenko administration. A deterioration of relations with the EU is likely to disrupt the economic benefits Belarus enjoys. Russia has responded with a reaffirmed commitment to Lukashenko’s administration, lending Belarus $1.5 billion for post-election security and guaranteeing military support.

Increased pressure from the EU on electoral transparency is likely to make further cooperation with Russia an attractive option for Lukashenko, who has thus far refused complete acquiescence to Moscow despite the Kremlin’s attempts at economic integration with Belarus. For the foreseeable future, the EU will likely be caught between a desire to bring the ex-Soviet republic under its sphere of influence and its mandate to uphold democratic values.

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Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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