Belarus embassy wraps up in Sweden

Belarus decided to withdraw its embassy staff from Sweden over a pro-democracy stunt involving an air drop of teddy bears on its territory.

Minsk: The Belarusian embassy in Sweden has stopped accepting most documents after a diplomatic row erupted between the two countries. It has turned the task over to the Latvian embassy, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said.

Last week, Belarus refused to renew the accreditation of Sweden`s Ambassador Stefan Eriksson. The move came just a few weeks after a Swedish light plane dropped hundreds of teddy bears bearing pro-democracy slogans over Belarus.

"In line with the closing, the embassy of Belarus in Sweden will from August 10 cease the handling of all documents on issues of citizenship, registering (Belarusian) citizens for permanent residence outside Belarus, consultations, issuance of passports, marriage, birth and death certificates, as well as requests for other documents or other issues requiring long-term decisions," a ministry statement read.

Starting August 20, the embassy will no longer accept entry visas to Belarus. From August 27, Belarusians residing in Sweden will have to turn to the Belarusian embassy in Latvia for consultations.

Commenting on Minsk`s move, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on his Twitter account that Eriksson had been expelled from Belarus "for being too supportive of human rights".

On Wednesday, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it was withdrawing its entire embassy staff from Stockholm, and asked Sweden to pull its diplomats out of Minsk by August 30.

Bildt wrote on Twitter that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko`s "fear of human rights" was "reaching new heights".

Lukashenko sacked a number of top officials over the teddy bear stunt that took place on July 04.

In power since 1994, the Belarusian strongman has been accused by western governments of cracking down violently on dissent.