Belarus has closed its embassy in Canada after 24 years of diplomatic relations.
Also read: Belarus: Arrested opponent “admits” himself
As of July 10, the consular duties of the Belarusian Embassy in Canada are now handled by the Consular General of Belarus in New York. On September 1, the embassy will cease operations.
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The announcement came after Canadian Foreign Minister Mark Guernsey lamented on Sunday that a Belarusian opposition journalist had been arrested in an embarrassing situation at Minsk airport.
“Belarus hijacking, Ryan Air plane forcible landing in Minsk and arrest of journalist Roman Pratasevich, serious interference in civil aviation and attack on freedom of the press. Canada has asked Belarus to release Mr. Pratasevich,” the minister said on Sunday.
Mr. Pratasevich, former editor-in-chief of the opposition media organization Nexta, took part in a wave of recent protests against the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also strongly condemned Belarus’ action, calling it “illegal” and “completely unacceptable.” “This is clearly an attack on democracy and freedom of the press,” he told a news conference.
Canada is at the back of the United Nations, which has also called for Mr Pratasevich’s “immediate release” over the weekend.
“We fear for the safety of Roman Protassevich and want to make sure he is being treated humanely and that he is not ill or tortured,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Pratasevich, who is on the list of terrorists in his country, faces up to 15 years in prison.