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Putin Dismisses Controversial Ambassador To Belarus

Mikhail Babich has raised ire in Belarus with several controversial public statements in recent months. (file photo)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a decree sacking Mikhail Babich as Moscow's ambassador to Belarus.

The Kremlin said on its website that Putin was appointing Dmitry Mezentsev as the new ambassador in Minsk.

The decree said Babich was also dismissed as Russia's special presidential envoy for development of trade and economic cooperation with Belarus.

Babich had caused controversy in Belarus with several public statements that had also raised the ire of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatol Hlaz objected on March 15 to Babich's comments in an interview that contradicted Lukashenka in his assertion that Russia was intentionally preventing Belarusian goods from entering the Russian market.

"Relations between our countries and peoples are much deeper and pervasive than those artificial and juggled figures the Russian diplomat [Babich] regularly sticks to," Hlaz said. "I believe that in such a short time spent here in Belarus he simply failed to understand the difference between a [Russian] federal district and an independent state."

Mezentsev has previously served as a regional governor in Russia and was a Russian official in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax