Belarusan authorities on June 19 began making the life of foreign diplomatic missions in the Drazdy compound impossible. They announced a cutoff of electricity, water, gas and telephone services; introduced aggressive identity checks for the diplomats; and dug up the access road to the compound, thus forcing the diplomats to walk a long way, instead of driving to, their own residences.
Britain, currently presiding over the European Union, announced that EU countries are poised to respond by recalling their ambassadors from Minsk and sending the Belarusan ambassadors home, “so that they report unambiguously” the EU countries’ reaction. Germany became the first to take that measure–its foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, adding a comment on the deepening international isolation of the Belarusan government. The U.S. State Department warned that it would do likewise. The Bulgarian ambassador in Minsk, doyen of the diplomatic corps, publicly termed the Belarusan authorities’ conduct “uncivilized.”
In Moscow, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov staked the middle ground. Conceding that “our Belarusan friends and brothers are acting very undiplomatically,” he expressed hope that the “misunderstanding would be settled short of a recall of ambassadors.” (Belapan, Belarusski Rynok, RTR, Itar-Tass, June 19-21). President Alyaksandr Lukashenka claims that the Drazdy compound needs repairs. Last week, Lukashenka unilaterally changed the sprawling compound’s status to that of a presidential residence, and the status of diplomatic missions to that of “guests” of the president. In practice, both the measure and the ensuing harassment amount to revoking the extraterritorial status of the diplomatic missions. (See the Monitor, June 9, 10, 18.)
MOSCOW DISAVOWS ARMENIAN THREAT TO INCORPORATE KARABAKH.