BERLIN — Belarus has ordered two German educational organizations to close, part of its retaliation against EU sanctions imposed over a diversion of a passenger jet by the ex-Soviet nation’s authorities in order to seize a dissident passenger.
Germany on Wednesday deplored Belarus’ decision to demand an end to all activities of the Goethe Institute, which promotes German language and culture worldwide, and the German Academic Exchange Service.
“This step will contribute to further isolating Belarus internationally,” the German Foreign Ministry said. “The victims of this decision are Belarusian citizens, who are being denied further opportunities for social and cultural activity.”
The ministry renewed its call for Belarusian authorities “to enter a serious and inclusive national dialogue and discuss the legitimate demands of the protest movement.”
Last week, the European Union slapped new bruising economic sanctions on Belarus over last month’s diversion of a passenger jet to arrest dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich. The sanctions target the country’s top export items, including potash — a common fertilizer ingredient, petroleum products and tobacco industry exports.
Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has denounced the EU sanctions as part of a “hybrid war” waged by the West against Belarus.
The country has been shaken by months of protests fueled by Lukashenko’s re-election to a sixth term in an August 2020 ballot that was widely seen as rigged. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
Belarus declared on Monday that it would move to suspend a readmission agreement with the EU that is intended to stem illegal migration. The announcement followed Lukashenko’s warning that his country will no longer try to stem a flow of illegal migrants from other countries to the EU.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry also announced a travel ban on unspecified EU officials who were involved in drafting the sanctions against Belarus, said it would recall its envoy to the EU for consultations and asked the 27-nation bloc’s representative in Minsk, Dirk Schuebel, to leave the country.
In addition to that, Belarus will suspend its participation in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, which was intended to strengthen cooperation with several ex-Soviet nations.