The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has suggested that the Latvian ambassador and embassy workers leave the country following an incident with the Belarusian flag in the Latvian capital of Riga, Belarusian top diplomat Vladimir Makei told reporters on Monday.
"A note of protest has been handed to the ambassador. We cannot let such provocations go unanswered so we suggested that the ambassador should leave Belarus in 24 hours, the embassy’s diplomatic and technical staff should leave in 48 hours, and only one technical employee can stay to maintain the embassy building," the Belarusian foreign minister pointed out.
"We demanded that the Latvian authorities carry out an investigation, offer apologies and put the Belarusian national flag back where it was," Makei said. "Latvia will surely give a tit-for-tat response and we are ready for that. At this point, we see no possibility to work with the current diplomatic mission," the Belarusian top diplomat said in response to a TASS question.
The Belarusian national flag in front of the Radisson Blu Hotel Latvija in downtown Riga, where teams participating in the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship are staying, was replaced with a white-red-white banner on Monday. According to Latvia’s LETA news agency, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevic and Riga Mayor Martins Stakis were the ones that replaced the flag.
The move came after a Ryanair flight en route from Athens to the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius had been forced to make an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport following a reported bomb threat. The threat turned out to be a hoax. Minsk specified that Roman Protasevich, wanted in Belarus as a co-founder of the Nexta Telegram channel deemed extremist, had been among the flight’s passengers. He was detained by law enforcement officers, media reports said. The flight departed to Vilnius on the same day.