Belarus Kicks Out French Ambassador After EU Fails to Recognize Lukashenko's Re-election

Belarus has ordered French Ambassador Nicolas de Lacoste to leave the country as France and the European Union continue to fail to recognize Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's re-election victory last year as legitimate, the Associated Press reported.

The French Foreign Ministry announced Monday in a communique that de Lacoste left Belarus on Sunday after Belarusian authorities arrived at a "unilateral decision."

Local media said that the order for the French ambassador to leave is likely connected to the EU's and France's pushback against Lukashenko's disputed win in the election, AP reported. This reasoning is supported by a message from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, which said that de Lacoste refused to present his credentials to Lukashenko.

"The head of the French diplomatic mission did not express readiness to complete the procedure for assuming office as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Belarus, which is stipulated by international law and generally recognized practice," said Anatoly Glaz, press secretary of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

France's Foreign Ministry said that de Lacoste's decision not to present his credentials was "in line with the common European position of not recognizing the legitimacy of the outcome of the August 2020 presidential election."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Belarus Expels French Ambassador
Belarus has ordered French Ambassador Nicolas de Lacoste to leave the country as France and the European Union continue to fail to recognize Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election as legitimate. Above, Lukashenko is seen during a joint press conference at the Kremlin on September 9, 2021, in Moscow, Russia. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Lukashenko claimed victory in a sixth presidential term, but the election was marred by claims of widespread voter fraud. More than 35,000 people were arrested and thousands beaten by police for protesting against Lukashenko's sixth term after an election in August of 2020 that the opposition condemned as fraudulent and many Western countries refused to recognize as valid.

The French ambassador arrived in Minsk after the controversial presidential election. In December, he handed copies of his credentials to the Belarusian foreign minister but did not want to meet with Lukashenko.

De Lacoste actively met with representatives of civil society and politicians in Belarus. Among the latest meetings were negotiations in Minsk with activists of the opposition "Tell the Truth" movement, which was closed by the authorities. And also a meeting on October 16 with the ex-leader of Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich, who sharply criticizes the current government.

Belarusian opposition figure Pavel Latushko—a former Belarusian ambassador to France—called on the French ambassador to continue his mission from Lithuania.

"The French Ambassador may continue his mission in the interests of developing relations between France and Belarusian society from Vilnius," Latushko said. "The regime is entering open conflict both with neighboring countries and with the leading states in world politics."

Calling it an "unjustified decision," France said it has taken proportionate measures regarding Belarusian diplomats in France. Belarusian Ambassador to France Igor Fisenko was recalled to Minsk for consultations, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said.

Belarusian Election Results Protest
A French ambassador was ordered to leave Belarus after refusing to present his credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko, whom France and the European Union have refused to acknowledge as the legitimate victor in the August 2020 election. Above, protesters participate in a "Die-In" as they attend a demonstration against the results on August 15, 2020, in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry/Getty Images