Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana @Tsihanouskaya Visits WashDC

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Belarus Kicks Out US Diplomats With New Limits in US Embassy Minsk Staffing

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According to the June 3 statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, the government summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures include the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. We are not sure how many were at post prior to this latest development. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020. In April this year, the new ambassador was reportedly to reside in Lithuania temporarily as she was not granted a visa for Belarus.

Related posts:

U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher to Temporarily Reside in Lithuania

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LRT News citing Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomėnas reports that the new U.S. Ambassador to Belarus Julie Fisher will temporarily reside in Lithuania as she does not have a visa to travel to Minsk. The United States has reportedly asked the Lithuanian government for accreditation for Ambassador Fisher.  The local medial outlet notes that the US embassy to Lithuania confirmed to BNS that Belarus had not yet issued a visa to Ambassador Fisher, but did not comment on her temporary residence in Vilnius.

 

Related posts:

Detained Ex-Campaign Staffer and Diplomatic Spouse Vitali Shkliarov Leaves Belarus

 

UK does not accept results of fraudulent Presidential election in Belarus, and US says what?

 

Belarus’ Lukashenko in Power Since 1994 Claims Landslide Election Victory, Spawns Widespread Protests

 

Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat Julie D. Fisher to be U.S. Ambassador to Belarus

On April 20, 2020, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate career diplomat Julie D. Fisher, of Tennessee, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Belarus. The WH released the following brief bio:

Julie Fisher, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Counselor, currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Europe and the European Union in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.  She also served on special assignment as Chargé d’Affaires a.i. of the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

Previously, Ms. Fisher was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Mission to NATO; the Chief of Staff to the State Department’s Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources; and the Director of the State Department Operations Center.

Earlier assignments include service as Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General of NATO and, before that, as Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Ms. Fisher earned her B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.P.P. from Princeton University.  She speaks Russian, French, and Georgian.

According to history.state.gov, the last Senate confirmed ambassador to Belarus was Karen Brevard Stewart (1952–)  who served from October 24, 2006–March 12, 2008.  Between then and now, we had six chargé d’affaires who served in Belarus, with CDA Michael Scanlan who served  almost four years from 2009-2013. If confirmed, DAS Fisher would be the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008.

 

Related posts:

U.S. Announces Exchange of Ambassadors With Belarus After Meeting With Lukashenka

 

Via state.gov:

Since Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power in 1994, he has consolidated power through widespread repression. In 1996, Lukashenka reacted to western criticism of a referendum that dissolved Parliament and expanded the authority of the presidency by temporarily expelling the U.S. and EU Ambassadors. After a presidential election in 2006 that violated international norms and was neither free nor fair, the United States implemented travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals (including Lukashenka). In 2008, after the United States tightened sanctions due to worsening human rights abuses, Belarus expelled the U.S. ambassador – a position that has remained vacant – and 30 out of 35 U.S. diplomats. Over this period, Belarus became almost wholly dependent upon Russia – politically, economically, and militarily. In August 2015, Lukashenka released all six of Belarus’ political prisoners. In response, the United States provided limited sanctions relief, suspending sanctions on the state-owned entities. Since sanctions relief began, Belarus has taken some steps to improve democracy and human rights. Increased bilateral engagement depends on Belarus making additional progress on human rights and democracy issues.

Today, the State Department’s Under Secretary For Political Affairs (P) David Hale who is in Belarus announced a “joint efforts to move our bilateral relationship forward” and the “exchange ambassadors” as the next step in normalizing the relationship.

I am pleased to stand here today with Foreign Minister Makei to recognize our joint efforts to move our bilateral relationship forward.   Our meeting today marks an historic juncture in U.S. – Belarus relations.   It is my honor to announce that we are prepared to exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing our relationship.

The United States remains committed to a sovereign, independent Belarus with a prosperous future for the next generation. The United States also welcomes Belarus’ increased cooperation on issues of non-proliferation, border security, economic cooperation, and information sharing on matters of shared security.

I would like to reiterate that by normalizing our relationship, we are not asking Belarus to choose between East and West.  The United States respects Belarus’ desire to chart its own course and to contribute to peace and stability in the region.

There are still aspects of the Belarus Democracy Act with which the Belarusian government needs to contend, and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections represent an opportunity to address the spirit of the concerns outlined in the Belarus Democracy Act. With such progress, we can discuss further easing of sanctions.

Belarus is a country with a rich culture and vibrant, talented people.  We look forward to increased cooperation and dialogue between our countries. Thank you.

 

Related posts:

 

 

U.S. Embassy Minsk: A Visit to the Chernobyl Alienation Zone in Gomel Oblast

Posted: 2:59 am ET
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Next week the world will mark the 30th year since the Chernobyl disaster, a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Pripyat, in Ukraine. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were reportedly evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. About 60% of the fallout is said to have landed in Belarus.

Via: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant is located ten kilometers from the border with Belarus. This neighborhood has identified extremely high pollution southern areas of Belarus by radioactive materials that were released from the destroyed nuclear reactor in 1996. Almost from the first day of the accident republic territory contaminated by fallout from that April 27 was extremely intense. By April 29 the wind bore radioactive dust from Chernobyl in Belarus and Russia. Due to heavy contamination was evacuated 24,725 people from the Belarusian villages and three districts of the Republic of Belarus was declared mandatory exclusion zone.

Click here to see the map of the predictive contamination in Belarus from 1986 until 2046.

From U.S. Embassy Minsk’s historical photos:

Screen Shot 2016-03-23

Deputy Chief of Mission Constance Phlipot visits the Chernobyl alienation zone in Gomel Oblast. February 2005

We should note the following about the US presence in Belarus via US Embassy Minsk: Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. The imposed reduction in staff has greatly impeded the Embassy’s ability to carry out mutually beneficial diplomatic programs and activities, including cultural and educational exchanges, assistance programs, and visa services.

 

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Photo of the Day: Cheesehead Meets the Big Cheese in Belarus

Posted: 1:56 am ET
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This is from US Embassy Minsk, one of the USG’s smallest missions.  Due to restrictions imposed unilaterally by the Belarusian Government in 2008 on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, the American Embassy was forced to reduce its staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw its Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014.

Via @ScottRauland, America’s chief diplomat in Belarus on FB:

bigcheese

I’m the “Cheesehead” – a nickname we use in the U.S. for people from the state of Wisconsin, which produces some of America’s best cheese. What better place for a Cheesehead to hang out than the 3rd Annual Cheese Festival, which was held at the Botanical Gardens in #Minsk on June 20, 2015

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