RIGA - Latvian Ambassador to Belarus Einars Seimanis on Monday was summoned to the Belarusian Foreign Ministry where he was told that he and other diplomats working at the Latvian embassy in Minsk have to leave the country, LETA was told at the Foreign Ministry.
Ambassador Seimanis was given 24 hours and the other Latvian diplomats 48 hours to leave Belarus. The embassy is left with one administrative employee.
Responding to Belarus' decision, the Latvian Foreign Ministry summoned Belarus' charge d' affaires to inform that Belarusian diplomats are being expelled until relations between the two countries are normalized.
As LETA reported, Belarus' historical white-red-white flag was on Monday flown alongside the national flags of other nations participating in the Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) and Riga Mayor Martins Stakis (For/Progressives) replaced Belarus' official flag with the white-red-white standard at the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija where the Belarussian national ice hockey team is accommodated during the tournament.
Stakis said that the gesture was Riga City Council's initiative, backed by Belarus' opposition and intended to express support for the people who are suffering under the regime of Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
"Riga is demonstrating solidarity with Belarus' people, opposition and refugees. For a free Belarus!" Stakis said at the event.
Rinkevics indicated that sanctions and statements are one thing, but this step - replacing the flag - is stronger as a symbolic act.
The Latvian foreign minister added that the replacing of Belarus' official flag with the white-red-white one also shows Latvia's attitude to the Belarusian authorities' 'act of terror' - the forced landing of a passenger flight to arrest an opposition journalist.
Rinkevics also voiced hope that the meeting of EU leaders, which is taking place in Brussels, will result in an agreement on member states' joint response to Belarus' actions - the hijacking of a Ryanair plane and capturing one of its passengers, opposition activist and journalist Raman Pratasevich.
As the Latvian foreign minister told LETA, by replacing Belarus' official flag with the historical white-red-white flag Latvia shows that it cannot and will not support the Belarusian authorities' crackdown on opposition activists.
He also noted that the hijacking of the Ryanair flight and capture of Protasevich and his girlfriend is a violation of international law and that such operations pose threats to civilian air traffic, passengers and Protasevich, who had found refuge in a foreign country from reprisals in Belarus.
The foreign minister also said that Riga entrusted with hosting the ice hockey championship after the events that shook Belarus last year and that the change of flags was a symbolic demonstration that Latvia is with the Belarusian people and not with Lukashenko's regime.