STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden's ambassador to Belarus has been expelled "for being too supportive of human rights" and meeting with the opposition in the authoritarian state, the Swedish foreign minister said Friday.
Carl Bildt called the move "outrageous" and said Sweden in turn won't allow in the incoming Belarusian ambassador. Two Belarusian diplomats also have been asked to leave the Nordic country, the foreign minister said.
"This is a serious violation against the norms for relations between states," Bildt said, calling the accusations against Ambassador Stefan Eriksson "ridiculous."
Eriksson, who was in Sweden when the expulsion was announced Friday, had previously met with opposition activists in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. That irritated the regime of Belarus's longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, who rules the country with an iron fist, Bildt said.
"The accusations lack substance," Bildt told reporters. "Basically this is about Sweden being active in advocating democracy and human rights in Belarus."
There was no immediate word from the Belarusian government on the decision.
The expulsion also comes weeks after a pair of Swedish activists used a light plane to drop hundreds of teddy bears bearing messages supportive of human rights into Belarusian territory.
Lukashenko fired two generals over the incident. Bildt, however, said there was no word that the teddy bear dropped was linked to the expulsion.
"That has not been mentioned in this context whatsoever," he said, but noted "it might have had an impact on the general atmosphere."