Updated at 17:25,07-01-2021

U.S. Senate Unanimously Approves New Ambassador To Belarus

Rferl

U.S. Senate Unanimously Approves New Ambassador To Belarus
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved the appointment of Julie Fisher, deputy assistant secretary for Western Europe and the European Union, as the new ambassador to Belarus.

Fisher is the first U.S. envoy to the Eastern European country since 2008.

U.S. President Donald Trump in April announced his decision to appoint Fisher to the post, and the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee in September recommended the approval of her nomination.

Fisher previously served on special assignment as the charge d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

The United States and Belarus established diplomatic relations after the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Relations turned sour amid accusations by the United States that Belarus was violating human rights. Minsk, in turn, has accused Washington of interfering in its internal affairs.

In June 2006, Washington imposed economic sanctions on two enterprises of the Belarusian state petrochemical corporation Belneftekhim over reports of human rights abuses.

The same year, Belarus recalled its ambassador from Washington and insisted that the U.S. envoy must leave Minsk.

On July 20, longtime ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka appointed a new envoy to the United States. But the process of mending U.S.-Belarusian ties paused this year after the disputed August 9 presidential election in Belarus and subsequent unrest.

Belarus has been gripped by protests since the official results of the vote handed Lukashenka a landslide win and a sixth straight term.

The election was condemned by opponents and the West as rigged.

Crowds of demonstrators calling for his resignation have swelled beyond 100,000 at times, and the opposition has sought to mount a nationwide strike.

Thousands of protesters have been arrested, with some beaten by police and security forces on the streets and in detention.

Many of the protest movement's leaders were forced to flee the country or jailed in a government crackdown.

The United States, the European Union, and several other countries have refused to acknowledge Lukashenka as the winner of the vote, and imposed sanctions on him and his allies, citing election fraud and the police crackdown.