Self-proclaimed president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko instructed the government to review the work of Belarusian embassies and the number of diplomats in Europe. In his opinion, one ambassador with an assistant in a two-room apartment will be sufficient, given the state of relations between Belarus and the EU.
"We need to take a very serious look at our diplomatic missions in Europe. Listen, well, why should we keep a bunch of diplomats there, if we do not trade with them at all. And political relations, diplomacy, it is not just absent, it is to the detriment of the state," Lukashenko said during a government meeting on foreign policy.
"If you need one ambassador and assistant there, well, leave them, rent them a two-room apartment, and let them work. We just need to approach this from the point of view of life and practicality. What are we puffing up and trying to inflate these diplomatic missions? We seem to have started this process recently. But it goes neither good nor bad, as if someone wants to stop it," Lukashenko said.
In April 2021, Lukashenko announced that he was going to close diplomatic missions in countries that had frozen contacts with Belarus.
A month after this statement, the Belarusian regime forced a Ryanair passenger plane to land in Minsk to detain the opposition blogger, Roman Protasevich.
European countries banned their airlines from using Belarusian airspace almost immediately after the incident with the forced landing of a Ryanair plane in Minsk. Regular flights to the Belarusian capital were canceled by German Lufthansa, Polish LOT, and Latvian Air Baltic.
On June 24, the European Union approved new economic sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko's regime. Brussels banned imports of petroleum products and potash fertilizers from Belarus. In addition, the new restrictions prohibit individuals and business entities from the EU to sell, supply or transfer products intended for production of tobacco products. The European Union has also imposed restrictions on access to its capital markets. It is forbidden to provide insurance services to the Belarusian government and state institutions and organizations. The European Investment Bank will stop funding projects in the public sector of Belarus.
The EU Council noted in a statement that Brussels imposed new sanctions in response to " to the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists, as well as to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on 23 May 2021 and the related detention of journalist Raman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega."
On June 28, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced that Minsk is suspending participation in the European Union's Eastern Partnership initiative in the face of EU sanctions and restrictions. Belarus has also banned the entry into its territory of "representatives of European structures and persons from the European Union who facilitated the introduction of restrictive measures" and said that it will continue to develop other responses, including economic ones.
Commenting on the decision of Alexander Lukashenko's regime, one of the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, said that representatives of her team and democratic forces will continue to work with European partners.