Updated at 19:06,19-01-2022

Former Swedish ambassador describes his time in Minsk as best period of his life


Former Swedish ambassador Stefan Eriksson said in a New Year's message to the Belarusian people that his three years in Belarus had been the best time in his life.

"The expiring year has been difficult for many people, including myself," Mr. Eriksson said in Belarusian in the video message posted on the website of the private newspaper Nasha Niva. "I would like to wish that the new year become the best one for you, for all of us. Of course, I would like to wish to all of you the good, health, wellbeing and everything else that's usually wished on New Year's Eve."

"I would like to wish to you, the Belarusians, more confidence in yourself," Mr. Eriksson said. "Confidence in yourself, daily, in life, in love. Confidence in yourself as Belarusians, as representatives of a really wonderful country with a rich history and a most interesting culture. One should be proud of this. I would also like to wish you a lot of good, a lot of kindness in your life. This helps one live."

Although there are all kinds of people and it is probably impossible to love them all, everybody should respect everybody else and look for compromise to deal with disagreements, Mr. Eriksson said.

"Let me assure you that even when I'm far away, in Sweden, I'm with you in my heart," he said. "The years that I spent in Belarus were very good, one might say, the best ones in my life. I miss you very much and will stay with you and not disappear."

Mr. Eriksson ended the message with "Zhyve Belarus! [Long Live, Belarus!]" a quotation from a poem by literary great Yanka Kupala that is always chanted during opposition demonstrations.

Stefan Eriksson was expelled from Belarus a few weeks after a July 4 incident in which two representatives of Sweden's ad agency Studio Total illegally flew a small plane from Lithuania to Belarus and dropped hundreds of teddy bears containing pro-human rights messages on the Belarusian territory.

The Belarusian foreign ministry announced on August 3 that the Belarusian authorities had denied an accreditation extension to Mr. Eriksson.

"He has worked in Belarus for about seven years, which is a long period," said the ministry's spokesman, Andrey Savinykh. "However, all his activities were aimed at destroying Belarusian-Swedish relations, not at strengthening them."

The diplomatic row that followed the expulsion of Mr. Eriksson eventually led to the closure of the Swedish embassy in Minsk and the Belarusian embassy in Stockholm.