23 Mar 2022 18:39

Belarus expels several Ukrainian diplomats, closes Ukrainian Consulate General in Brest - Foreign Ministry

MINSK. March 23 (Interfax) - The Belarusian authorities have decided to expel several Ukrainian diplomats and close the Ukrainian Consulate General in Brest, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

"The 1+4 diplomatic staff (ambassador and four staff members) can calmly continue their work in accordance with the goals identified by the Vienna Conventions. Due to the actual lack of staff, the Belarusian side also decided to close the Ukrainian consulate in Brest," Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anatoly Glaz said.

Belarus has recorded numerous unfriendly actions undertaken by Ukraine since 2020, he said.

"It has come to the point that the Ukrainian authorities began to interfere directly and indirectly in our internal affairs, put 'on pause' contacts between our countries and called Belarus a 'hostile country' back in 2021 at a high official level. These statements, unfortunately, were followed by a number of practical destructive actions," Glaz said.

"As part of the illegal air blockade, the leadership of Ukraine, the only one of all countries that joined it, did not allow even humanitarian flights carrying Belarusians to fly over its territory. I emphasize that all this was done proactively and loudly against Belarus, which did not take a single anti-Ukrainian step even in the most difficult times," the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

The Belarusian authorities were also aware of the activities of a number of employees of the Ukrainian embassy and Consulate General that were incompatible with their diplomatic status, Glaz went on to say.

"In this regard, in full compliance with Article 11 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the Republic of Belarus decided to cut the number of Ukrainian diplomats in the country. This step is aimed at halting non-diplomatic activities of a number of employees of Ukrainian foreign diplomatic missions. They have been advised to leave the country within 72 hours," he said.

On Tuesday, the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) reported the elimination of a spy network, which was operating under the cover of the Ukrainian embassy. According to the KGB, half of the staff of the Ukrainian embassy in Minsk were career intelligence officers (of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service).

There are 19 diplomats in the embassy, eight of whom are career officers of the domestic security services, the KGB said.

The State Security Committee said it has recorded active intelligence activities of employees of the Ukrainian embassy to Belarus, as well as the Ukrainian Consulate General in Brest over the past few years.

The KGB said that employees of the Ukrainian embassy have tried to form a far-flung network of informants from among Belarusian citizens and gathered intelligence data about the activities of the Belarusian and Russian military.