Minister: Estonia will not send new ambassador to Belarus

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The diplomat appointed to the post of Estonia's ambassador to Belarus will not be taking up the position after all, foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said Saturday. The appointment had met with considerable opposition, given it would be a tacit recognition of the presidency of Alexander Lukashenko.

BNS reports that in an opinion piece penned for daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) which published Saturday, Liimets wrote that: "This would be completely inappropriate, as neither Estonia nor the EU recognizes the result of the Belarusian presidential elections of last August, which were marked by mass fraud."

As a result, Jaak Lensment, whom President Kersti Kaljulaid appointed at the beginning of this month, to replace the outgoing Merike Kokajev, who has finished her term, will not be going to Minsk as ambassador, and neither will anyone else.

Estonia does not consider Alexander Lukashenko a legitimate head of state, Liimets said, meaning that an ambassador presenting his or her credentials to him would represent a U-turn on that position.

Lukashenko was returned for a sixth consecutive term as president last August after polls widely considered to be rigged, and a violent crackdown on protest and dissent, including the state hijacking of a civilian airliner en route to Vilnius and one of whose passengers was an opposition leader, have continued ever since.

Larger-than-usual numbers of illegal migrants have also been crossing Belarus' border into Lithuania, an EU state, in recent weeks in a development seen as a deliberate ploy on the part of the Lukashenko regime.

As to alternatives to full diplomatic representation, Liimets presented a range of options: Appointing a temporary charge d'affaires, retaining an ambassador who would work from Tallinn and thus not have to present credentials, or continue with a scaled-down embassy and not make any more appointments.

Minsk itself ordered Lithuania to scale its diplomatic staff to one earlier this month, the English-language arm of public broadcaster LRT reports, and Latvia's embassy in Minsk discontinued consular functions in late May, public broadcaster LSM's English portal reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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