Unclear if outgoing Estonian ambassador to Belarus to be replaced

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Estonian Ambassador Merike Kokayev with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The foreign ministry has not made a decision on sending a new ambassador to Belarus once the current representative's term ends. Lithuania has already said that it will not send a new ambassador, in the light of the ongoing human rights violations following last year's reelection of Alexander Lukashenko as president.

A foreign ministry spokesperson said: "We will consult closely with our partners, who are also in the process of changing their ambassadors, and we will move one step at a time."

Lithuania, which does not recognize Lukashenko's presidency as legitimate, has said is recalling its ambassador, Andrius Pulokas, as of August 5 this year, the English-language page of public broadcaster LRT reports. Pulokas, appointed to the role in 2016, will not be replaced.

Current Estonian ambassador in Minsk Merike Kokayev's four-year term was extended by 12 months in 2020, and is now due to end on July 31, foreign ministry spokesperson Kristina Ots told ERR Wednesday, while it is not clear whether she will be replaced.

"An exchange of ambassadors is planned for late summer or autumn of this year, but it is difficult to predict what could affect the appointment and accreditation of an ambassador could in two or three months from now," Ots said.

Last August's presidential elections, widely condemned as rigged, returned Lukashenko for a sixth term, effectively making him the dictator of the landlocked state of 9.3 million inhabitants.

Protests during and after the elections were met with a violent crackdown, and leading opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – who recently visited Tallinn – is in exile in Vilnius, which lies just over 30km from the border.

Last month, a civilian airliner was virtually hijacked by Belarusian authorities while it was flying through that country's airspace, en route to Vilnius. After being forced to land, another opposition leader, Roman Protasevich, and his partner, were both arrested on landing, and remain incarcerated.

The Foreign Relations Act states that Estonian ambassadors are appointed and recalled by the President at the proposal of the government; once approved the ambassador usually presents his or her credentials to the receiving country's head of state – in Belarus' case, Alexander Lukashenko.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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