(Reuters) -Close Russia ally Belarus on Wednesday told Ukraine to cut its diplomatic presence in the country citing unfriendly actions and meddling in its internal affairs, drawing Kyiv’s condemnation and promise of a “proper” response.
Russia has used Belarusian territory as a staging post for its attack on Ukraine and the Ukrainian president’s office on Sunday warned it saw a high risk of an attack on western Ukraine’s Volyn region being launched from Belarus.
The Belarusian foreign ministry said in a statement that an unspecified number of Ukrainian diplomats would have to leave within 72 hours and the Ukrainian consulate in the city of Brest would be closed due to a lack of staff.
“We consider such actions of Belarus as another unprovoked unfriendly step,” said Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko.
He said in total 12 diplomats had been ordered to leave, but the ambassador would stay with sufficient staff in Minsk to continue consular services.
“Ukraine will not leave the actions of Belarus without a proper response, which we will announce later,” he said in a statement.
The Belarusian security service, KGB, on Tuesday accused eight Ukrainian diplomats of espionage. Nikolenko denied the allegations, saying the staff were official representatives of various Ukrainian ministries and state services who had been openly working in Belarus in these roles before the war.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Conor Humphries and Vinay Dwivedi)