The UK’s foreign and defence secretaries have reacted angrily to the expulsion of two British diplomats from strife-torn Belarus.
The eastern European nation has experienced mass protests since Alexander Lukashenko declared himself the winner of elections that have been widely disputed.
Dominic Raab tweeted: “The expulsion of 2 UK diplomats from Belarus for legitimately observing protests is wholly unjustified. Lukashenko can’t hide the oppression of his own people.
“The only way forward is free & fair elections & accountability for those responsible for violence against demonstrators.”
Raab later said: “As independent reports show, this is part of a concerted campaign of harassment aimed at activists, media and now diplomats.
“Instead of trying to bully those shining a light on his repression, Mr Lukashenko must agree to free and fair elections and enable those responsible for violence against demonstrators to be held to account.”
Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said: “The expulsion of the UK defence attache based on fabricated and misleading accusations is a flagrant attempt to divert attention from the growing oppression to free speech and freedoms inside Belarus by the Lukashenko regime.”
The comments came after the UK called for a fresh presidential election in Belarus following the “despicable” actions of Lukashenko.
In recent days Raab highlighted findings by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which he said “exposed the fraud at the heart of the presidential elections” in August.
The UK has already imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and his allies following the election and the brutal crackdown on protests.
The Foreign Office said the OSCE report found overwhelming evidence that the elections were falsified and of “massive and systematic” human rights abuses.