MINSK, Belarus (AP) — The European Union is recalling all member countries' ambassadors from Belarus, following the authoritarian government's request for the EU and Polish envoys to leave the country.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton made the announcement late Tuesday, hours after the Belarusian foreign ministry said the EU and Polish ambassadors should leave because of new bloc sanctions against Belarusian officials.
Belarus also said it was withdrawing its ambassadors to Poland and the EU.
The moves came one day after the EU Council voted to add 21 names to a list of some 200 Belarusian officials prevented from traveling to EU countries because of human rights violations. The officials also face an assets freeze.
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MINSK, Belarus (AP) — Belarus has asked European Union ambassadors and the Polish envoy to leave the region, while recalling its own ambassadors in response to new EU sanctions.
The moves announced Tuesday by the foreign ministry came one day after the EU Council voted to add 21 names to a list of some 200 Belarusian officials prevented from traveling to EU countries because of human rights violations. The officials also face an assets freeze.
Neighboring Poland has been one of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's strongest critics in Europe.
The EU sanctions target the authoritarian country's repression of political opposition, including frequent jailings. They date back to the December 2010 presidential elections, in which more than 700 people — including seven candidates — were arrested in the wake of a massive protest against alleged vote fraud. Strongman Lukashenko was declared the winner.
The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, decried Belarus' move on Tuesday, saying: "I consider it a hostile act."
Lukashenko has led Belarus since 1994, retaining Soviet-style controls over the economy and cracking down on opposition and independent media.
His predecessor, Stanislav Shushkevich, said Tuesday's moves appeared to signal a step up in repression.
"Lukashenko needs confrontation with the EU in order to be unhindered in putting more political prisoners in jail," he told The Associated Press.