MINSK - Belarusian Prosecutor General Andrey Shved has opened a criminal case against Riga Mayor Martins Stakis (For/Progressives) and Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) for replacing a Belarusian state flag with Belarus' historical white-red-white standard in Riga.
After reviewing the information available in mass media and on the Internet "about the grave crime committed against Belarus' interests", the prosecutor general opened a criminal case against Stakis and Rinkevics. They are accused of deliberate actions aimed at instigating racial strife on grounds of national affiliation, the Belarusian Prosecutor General's Office said.
"The criminal actions involved the public removal and replacement of the Belarusian state flag, which had been hoisted in the center of Riga due to the Belarusian team participating in the ice hockey world championship, with a white-red-white canvas," the Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement.
"This desecration of the state symbol humiliated the national dignity of the Belarusians," the statement says.
The criminal case has been forwarded to the Investigative Committee for a preliminary inquiry.
As reported, responding to the incident in which a Ryanair passenger plane was forced to land in Minsk so that Belarusian authorities could arrest opposition journalist Raman Pratasevich, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics and Riga Mayor Martins Stakis 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 ice hockey world championship.
Latvian Ambassador to Belarus Einars Semanis was therefore on Monday 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.
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.