• Sweden edition
 
Belarus expels Swedish ambassador
Photo: AP

Belarus expels Swedish ambassador

Published: 03 Aug 2012 15:10 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Aug 2012 17:04 GMT+02:00

Belarus has announced that it has expelled the Swedish ambassador for alleged contact with opposition groups, a decision described by Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt as "outrageous".

"Lukashenko regime has expelled Swedish Ambassador to Belarus for being too supportive of human rights. Outrageous. Shows nature of regime," Bildt said via Twitter on Friday.

Carl Bildt has furthermore added that Sweden has responded by blocking the arrival of the new Belarus ambassador and by expelling two diplomats.

Writing on his blog, Bildt described the decision to expel the Swedish ambassador Stefan Eriksson as a "serious breach of protocol".

"It is no secret that our relations with the Minsk regime are strained. And the situation has become even more tense since the seriously fraudulent presidential election in December 2010 and the political prisoners that we have since noted."

Carl Bildt admitted that Sweden, along with other EU countries, maintains a "relatively extensive" programme of support for civil society groups in Belarus.

"Not least to organisations which work with human rights in Belarus," he wrote.

Swedish relations with Belarus have been in stark focus recently after Stockholm-based PR company Studio Total dropped 879 teddy bears bearing various messages calling for freedom of expression from a light aircraft in early July.

President Lukashenko was at first loath to accept that the flight was real and that the country's air-space had been breached.

But on Thursday President Alexander Lukashenko sacked two of the nation's top defence officials after calling a meeting last week to scold his staff for allowing what he described as a "provocation".

Studio Total on Friday expressed the belief that the expulsion of the ambassador was a direct result of their teddy bear flight.

"That seems logical," Studio Total founder Tomas Mazetti told the Expressen daily.

However Martin Uggla, an expert on Belarus at the Swedish human rights NGO Östguppen, argued that the decision has more profound reasons.

“It’s a bigger issue than that. Sweden has criticized Belarus for abusing human rights for a long time. Now they want to punish Sweden," Uggla told The Local.

“Now they want to cool off the escalating criticism that they have received."

Uggla observed that Sweden's ambassador has held a high profile concerning the issue of human rights in Belarus.

"Stefan Eriksson has had a significant profile in Belarus and been openly criticizing them for abusing human rights for a long time," adding that he expects Eriksson to continue this work from at home in Sweden.

Carl Bildt confirmed that Eriksson will remain as Swedish ambassador to Belarus but will be be based in Stockholm for the time being.

"Now with a clearer focus on democracy and freedom of speech issues in Belarus," he said.

Bildt revealed that he had been asked by the Belarusian foreign minister to promise to reassign ambassador Eriksson future when they met at an EU meeting on July 23rd.

"He explained that his president was getting increasingly irritated and referred both to the fact that ambassador Eriksson had attended a meeting organized by the opposition, and that we at the embassy had given support to volunteer groups."

"I of course dismissed any suggestion of such an agreement," Bildt proclaimed.

Carl Bildt furthermore defended Sweden's right to maintain contact with civil society groups, pointing out that he presumed the Belarusian embassy in Stockholm also maintained similar contacts in Sweden.

Bildt stated that the decision will be discussed by the EU and that Belarus will suffer various consequences after Friday's events.

Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with a iron fist since 1994, basing much of his hard man reputation on the defence of the nation's borders, including the capabilities of the joint air defence system it shares with Russia.

Valery Karbalevich, an independent Minsk-based political analyst, explained the move to purge the generals as an attempt to save face in front of Moscow.

"It looks like Moscow is cranking up pressure and demanding an answer as to why the much-acclaimed air defence system is riddled with holes," Karbalevich told the Associate Press news agency on Thursday.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Follow Peter on Twitter here.

With additional reporting by Salomon Rogberg.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

16:48 August 3, 2012 by rise
Ooo tough guy this the president Alexander Clown.
19:56 August 3, 2012 by Hisingen
Upset the likes of Lukashenko at your peril. About as stable as Assad, and just as 'nice'.
20:12 August 3, 2012 by rise
Upset? I think it's the world's duty being an annoyance for dictatorships. Be it North Korea, Belarus or whichever. It may be dangerous, of course, but the world shouldn't let them last forever anyway.
23:35 August 3, 2012 by Texrusso
He is a MAD MAN and a foolish clown :D Shameless....
23:37 August 3, 2012 by occassional
Expel the ambassador is the least they could have done after that silly airspace incursion stunt, whosever bright idea that was. The pilot is lucky to have come out of it alive.

Funny though how Sweden chooses which dictators to 'upset'.
08:29 August 4, 2012 by RobinHood
On behalf of our dear leader, the President I want to make it clear, teddy bears, Swedish ambassadors, and anyone whose name is Ted, Teddy or Edward, is unwelcome in the peoples' paradise that is Belarus. Anyone who even mentions any of those names will be arrested and re-educated by Igor, the dear leader's personal secret policeman. The country formerly known as Sweden has been removed from all Belarusian maps and no longer exists. Igor will enforce that rule as well.

Bought to you by the official spokesman for the dear leader and president of Belarus: remember, we are watching you and we know where you all live.
12:15 August 4, 2012 by rise
#6

Now there you hit the bull's-eye! :D
12:54 August 5, 2012 by Camlon
Isn't it kind of hypocritical to be so mad about getting an ambassador kicked out, when Sweden does the excact same thing in response.

I really don't get the outrage. So what if Sweden got kicked out by a dictatorship. Belarus doesn't matter.
15:51 August 5, 2012 by rise
Personally I don't believe anyone in Sweden really is mad about it or even thinks of it much. But still sometimes you may need/want to, as it is put in Swedish media, "sätta hårt mot hårt" (an English translation would sound something like "set hard towards hard").
13:48 August 8, 2012 by robban70226
so....Stefan Eriksson be a member of the Elephant grave now?
Today's headlines
Police seeking missing Swede in London
Sofie Marie Jansson, who is currently missing in London. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Police seeking missing Swede in London

British police have issued a plea for tips in the search to find Swedish national Sofie Marie Jansson who hasn't been seen for almost a week. READ () »

University applications rocket to record high

University applications rocket to record high

Swedish universities continue to draw vast amounts of applicants with the number of prospective students seeking a third level education increasing for the seventh year in a row. READ () »

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot
Swedish artist Lars Vilks pictured in New York in 2012. Photo: Linus Sundahl-Djerf/TT

Man jailed in US over Lars Vilks murder plot

American authorities have sentenced a 20-year-old accomplice of 'Jihad Jane' to five years in prison for an attempted terror plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, after getting involved with the murder plans when he was a teenager. READ () »

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag visits a school in Tensta, one of the neighbourhoods mentioned when he and his colleagues first floated the new start zone proposal. File: TT

Sweden scraps 'new start zones' after EU input

Sweden has abandoned a plan to ease taxes for small companies in blighted areas after the European Commission challenged its legality. READ () »

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'
A typical Swedish Easter egg. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

'Easter eggs an invitation to spread germs'

A Swedish microbiologist has warned that traditional Swedish Easter eggs laden with candy are an open invitation to the spread of bacteria and viruses. "Is this really a good idea?" he asked. READ () »

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Jammed truck snarls Stockholm rush hour

PICTURES: A truck got wedged inside a tunnel in central Stockholm on Thursday, with authorities concerned the accident may have damaged cables in the tunnel's ceiling. READ () »

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
A Swedish Easter witch holding daffodils. File photo: TT

Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter

In India, I'd notice Easter only from the traffic jam outside the churches, but here witches, egg hunts, and feathers mark the Christian holiday. The Local's Deepti Vashisht brings you the various shades of Swedish Easter. READ () »

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Chemtrails?: Shutterstock.

Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe

A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. READ () »

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid
Fredrik Reinfeldt answers the constitutional affairs committee's questions. Photo: TT

PM pleads ignorance of Vattenfall's Nuon bid

Sweden's prime minister on Thursday said Vattenfall itself, not its owners the Swedish state, had responsibility for the loss-making Nuon deal. READ () »

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer
Photo: TT

'Kockums submarine raid may be illegal': lawyer

A Swedish lawyer says the Swedish military may have broken the law when it raided the Malmö premises of German defence giant Thyssen Krupp. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Advertisement:
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Society
Jimi Fritze heard every word when doctors discussed taking his organs
Society
A Swedish farmer explains why the new bestiality ban is 'pointless'
ESL
Sponsored Article
Learning Swedish the easy way
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

771
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com