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Foreign minister falls to teddy bears

Foreign minister falls to teddy bears

Mon August 20, 2012 11:38pm

BELARUS strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko has fired his foreign minister as part of a sweeping reshuffle that follows a diplomatic crisis in ties with Sweden after a pro-democracy stunt involving parachuting teddy bears.

Mr Lukashenko's office did not immediately explain the decision to replace Sergei Martynov with the powerful presidential administration chief Vladimir Makey.

An official biography states that Mr Makey was born in 1958 and has served as an adviser to the president since 2000 after starting his career as a diplomat.

He has headed the presidential administration since 2008 - a post with sweeping powers because of Mr Lukashenko's full control of both foreign and domestic affairs in the nation of 10 million.

But this influence has also placed Mr Makey on a list of dozens of Belarus officials who have been barred entry into the European Union because of a violent crackdown of post-election protests in December 2010.

It was not immediately clear how Mr Makey intended to carry out his duties representing Belarus at European conferences.

Another incident that angered Europe struck this month when Minsk expelled the ambassador of Sweden and ordered out all its diplomats after a Swedish public relations firm claimed to have conducted a protest with an air-drop of teddy bears carrying messages on human rights.

Analysts meanwhile have questioned Mr Lukashenko's motives in making the reshuffle and doubted that it would herald an improvement in ties with the West.

"Makey's appointment cannot possibly radically help relations with Europe because he is on the European no-entry list," said independent foreign policy analyst Roman Yakovlevsky.

Others said Mr Lukashenko's complete domination of politics made any reshuffle important only for the various political clans that are vying for influence under the 18-year presidential veteran.

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