22 January 2018, Monday, 23:24

Stefan Eriksson: I'll return when Lukashenka quits


The expelled Swedish ambassador to Belarus gives his first interview.

Stefan Eriksson has not given interviews or made statements after he had to leave Belarus. The diplomat finally broke the silence in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Radio Svaboda reports.

Eriksson explains why Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered him out of the country and notes the reason was not the teddy bear stunt.

He starts conversation with an anecdote popular on Belarusian social networking websites:

“What do Belarus and Sony have in common? Both now do without Eriksson,” the diplomat laughs.

Eriksson smiles as he recalls he was picking mushrooms in the forest outside Västerås when  he heard about a decision of the Belarusian authorities to cancel his accreditation.

“The news astonished me, but  I cannot say it was a total surprise. Stockholm had signals from Minsk that they didn't like the political course of Sweden and me personally,” the diplomat says. Eriksson is sure the decision was taken on Lukashenka's level.

The former ambassador says the diplomatic relations between Belarus and Sweden were not broken off. “The Swedish embassy remains in Minsk. It was not closed. However, it is inactive,” the diplomat says.

The diplomats names three reasons for the situation: “Sweden carries out a clear course regarding human rights and speaks openly about the situation in Belarus. Sweden is among the countries that work out this policy. As for the third reason, it is I am.”

According to the diplomat, he didn't always welcomed the actions by official Minsk. It concerns the events on December 19, 2010, when the authorities dispersed a peaceful protest demonstration against the rigged results of the presidential elections. On that evening, He saw with his own eyes that unconscious presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu was lying on the ground bleeding.  

Eriksson also received signals that official Minsk was dissatisfied with his great interest in the Belarsuian language and culture.

As for the teddy bear stunt, Eriksson does not believe he was expelled from the country over it.

Stefan Eriksson continues to deal with human rights issues and relations with Belarus at the MFA in Stockholm.

He sees no positive signs in the Belarusian situation:

“The September 23 elections were not free or fair. No opposition in the usual sense can exist in the country. It may be only dissidents at best. The regime holds everything under such a control that we cannot imagine it. Everyone actively standing against it faces a risk of being fired or expelled from university.”

Stefan Eriksson hopes he will return to Belarus some time.

The newspaper notes Stefan Eriksson will be able return to the country as an ambassador only after Lukashenka quits.

Asked about possible efforts to restore diplomatic relations between Sweden and Belarus, the diplomat answered: “I cannot say anything in the current situation.”