U.S. closes embassy in Belarus over security concerns
The State Department said Monday it closed the U.S. Embassy in Belarus because of "security and safety issues stemming" from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Why it matters: U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials have reportedly warned that they believe Belarus will soon officially join Russia's invasion efforts after serving as a launchpad for Russian troops and military equipment for the last several days.
- The State Department is also allowing non-emergency employees and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to voluntarily leave the country.
What they're saying: "The Department of State continually adjusts its posture at embassies and consulates throughout the world in line with its mission, the local security environment, and the health situation," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
- "We ultimately have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens, and that includes our U.S. government personnel and their dependents serving around the world."
The big picture: The U.S. suspending embassy operations in Minsk, Belarus, comes a day after the country passed a constitutional referendum that revoked its non-nuclear status, meaning Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko could ask Russia to transfer nuclear weapons to Belarus, according to Reuters.
- Belarus arrested hundreds of anti-war protesters Sunday demonstrating against the referendum and Belarus' support of Russia's invading forces.
- The State Department said it would not recognize the "sham referendum," saying it "further entrenches Belarus in the darkness of the past."
- The U.S. and its allies have repeatedly sanctioned Lukashenko's regime for its ongoing crackdown against the country's pro-democracy movement.