Yerevan cancels official’s visit to Belarus; Russia Pledges to Pursue Lapshin Case as OSCE Voices ‘Dismay’
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Thursday insisted that its extradition of a Russian-Israeli blogger to Baku conformed to the Belarus’ as well as international law, as Armenia’s Prime Minister canceled a scheduled trip by an Armenian official to Minsk.
A Belarusian foreign ministry spokesperson, Dmitrly Mironchik, also rejected Armenia’s criticism of its country’s decision to extradite blogger Aleksander Lapshin, who was arrested in Minsk in December at the behest of Azerbaijan, which plans to press criminal charges against the blogger for visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
The ruling Republican Party of Armenia parliament members on Wednesday called for Belarus to be dropped from the Collective Security Treaty Organization
“Calls for expulsion from the CSTO and the like are devoid of any legal grounds,” Mironchik told reporters in Minsk.
Azatutyun.am reported that in separate comments to the Russia Today news agency, Mironchik referred to Belarus and Armenia as “friendly countries.” “Therefore, statements made in the Armenian parliament … are simply emotions,” he said.
“Incidentally, I don’t know of any unbalanced, let alone offensive, evaluations made by Belarusian parliamentarians in connection with Armenia’s foreign policy moves, even though they had reason to challenge some of them,” he added without elaborating.
On Tuesday, the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld an earlier lower court ruling to extradite Lapship to Azerbaijan, after which he was flown to Baku and was seen being escorted by Azerbaijani security officers.
Aliyev telephoned Lukashenko on Wednesday to thank him for what the Azerbaijani presidential press service called a “just position and resolute steps” regarding the Lapshin affair. The blogger’s extradition was also a manifestation of “friendship and strategic partnership between Belarus and Azerbaijan,” Aliyev said, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry voiced its “deep disappointment” with Lapshin’s extradition, saying that it “does not correspond to the spirit of the alliance between Russia and Belarus.”
On Thursday, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters that Russian will continue to follow Lapshin’s fate.
“We’ll keep following the fate of the Russian citizen,” Zakharova said, reminding that the Foreign Ministry had earlier expressed its stance on the extradition in a statement.
“This issue and all other issues in bilateral relations should be solved in due course no matter which countries we are talking about,” Zakharova said. “All issues connected with the fate of Russian nationals are a priority for the Russian Federation,” she stressed.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović also expressed concern over the matter saying she was “dismayed.”
“Dismayed: A blogger/journalists taken to prison as a dangerous criminal,” Mijatović said in a Twitter post. “Free speech must prevail in the OSCE region,” she added.
After criticizing Belarus and its president Alexander Lukashenko on Wednesday, Armenia took another step on Thursday by canceling a scheduled visit by an Armenian official to Minsk early next month.
Azatutyun.am reported that the Armenian government cancelled the upcoming visit by Vartan Yeghiazarian, a deputy chief of the Armenian police who was due to visit Minsk from March 2 to 5 to take part in official ceremonies to mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Belarusian police service.
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian cancelled the trip in an executive order that was posted on the government’s website. It gave no reason for the decision.