Lithuania has told two Belarusian diplomats to leave the country. In response Belarus announced two Lithuanian diplomats as persona non grata for activities incompatible with diplomatic status.
The expelled Belarusians were “intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover,” Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted. “No thank you, and goodbye.”
“With this decision, Lithuania also stands in solidarity with Latvia, whose diplomats and employees at the embassy in Minsk were unjustifiably expelled by Belarus a few days ago,” the ministry’s statement added.
Belarusian diplomats must leave the territory of this country within seven days.
Similar measures were announced by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.
“We consider today's decision of Vilnius to expel the Belarusian diplomats as a completely unreasonable step. One logical explanation is that Lithuania deliberately raises the degree of escalation in relations with Belarus. It is very regrettable that as a result of such, I emphasize, proactive actions of the Lithuanian leadership, ordinary citizens on both sides of the border will suffer even more, as it would be difficult to solve consular and other vital issues, not to mention the freedom of movement, communication, contacts in mixed families and so on,” the Belarusian foreign ministry said.
On May 23, the founder of the largest opposition telegram channel of Belarus NEXTA, journalist Roman Protasevich, was detained in Minsk. The plane with Roman Protasevich on board flew from Athens to Vilnius. Suddenly, the plane gave a distress signal, changed course, and made an emergency landing at the Minsk National Airport. The emergency landing was caused by a mining signal.
The EU stated that the plane of Ryanair Company was forced to land at Minsk Airport due to the actions of the Belarusian military aircraft. CEO of Ryanair Michael O'Leary stated that the forcible landing of Athens-Vilnius flight in Belarus was highjacking backed by the state.
Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen threatened with sanctions the Belarusian officials responsible for the incident with the plane.
The U.S. and a number of the EU countries demand to stop the flights over Belarus, including the flights to the country itself.