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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Protests to Belarus Over Removal of Fences

WASHINGTON -- The United States protested to Belarus on Monday at the removal of fences around the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Minsk and at the presence of a Belarussian official seen walking inside the grounds.

Spokesman James Rubin described the acts as another attack on the Vienna Convention, which regulates the treatment of diplomats, and demanded the Belarussians put back the fences and remove its representatives from the property.

A U.S. official said the State Department had called in the Belarussian charge d'affaires and "told him that this was an unwise and illegal move and that they should fix the problem immediately, and if that doesn't happen we'll obviously consider next steps."

Rubin, speaking at his daily briefing, said: "We remind the regime that the residence of a chief of mission is clearly protected by the Vienna Convention.

"We expect the government of Belarus immediately to replace the fences that have been removed, to remove its representatives from our property, and to permit us to post our own guards on the property and allow us access to the property without hindrance," he added.

The U.S. ambassador to Belarus, Daniel Speckhard, left the residence on June 22, along with many other diplomats, after a bizarre confrontation over the Belarussians' attempts to do unsolicited repairs at their residences.

The residences are in the wooded Drozdy compound, where Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko also lives.

Rubin said of the latest dispute: "The government of Belarus has once again escalated its assault on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

In Minsk, Belarussian officials removed the fences protecting our ambassador's residence. This was done without permission or prior notice.

"By refusing to allow us to guard our property, Belarus took on the responsibility of protecting that property from unlawful intrusions. Now the regime there has chosen to ignore Vienna Convention principles against entering a diplomatic residence without permission." Rubin said the United States had no reason to believe the Belarussians had obtained access to sensitive material.

After talks with the Belarussians reached stalemate last month, the United States said the Belarussian ambassador to Washington would not be welcome back from vacation.