By Katharina Krebs, CNN
The Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei has died suddenly at the age of 64, the country’s foreign ministry said Saturday.
“Vladimir Makei, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, has suddenly passed away today,” the Foreign Ministry said in its official Facebook account, without providing more details about the circumstances surrounding the foreign minister’s death.
The President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday expressed his condolences to the family and friends of Makei, according to a statement published on the presidential website.
Makei had been scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it was mourning the news of his death, describing him as a “true friend” of Russia.
“The leadership and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation deeply mourn the untimely death on November 26 of this year of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Vladimir Vladimirovich Makei,” the statement read.
“An outstanding diplomat and statesman, a true patriot who devoted his life to serving his Motherland and protecting its interests in the international arena, has passed away.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich Makei was a true friend of Russia, who made a unique contribution to the comprehensive development of broad bilateral cooperation, the integrating establishment of the Union State, and the strengthening of ties between the fraternal peoples of Russia and Belarus.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich Makei will forever remain in our hearts as a man of a broad soul and deep wisdom, a brilliant professional, colleague and faithful comrade, who won the love and respect not only of the citizens of his country, but also far beyond the borders of Belarus.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Lavrov’s scheduled visit to Minsk on Monday had been postponed following Makei’s death.
‘Friendly approach’ to Ukraine
Makei was born in 1958 in the Belarusian region of Grodno, according to his official bio on the foreign ministry’s website.
In 1980 he graduated from the Minsk State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages. From 1980 to 1993 he served in the Armed Forces of the USSR and Belarus, before becoming assistant to the President of Belarus. From 2008 to 2012 he served as Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus.
Vladimir Makei had been the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus since August 22, 2012. He had the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion in February, Makei emphasized that no one would attack Ukraine from the territory of Belarus. This was stated during a telephone conversation between the defense ministers of Belarus and Ukraine and reiterated by Makei at a press conference in Minsk, according to a report in Belarusian news agency Belta.
According to the minister, the telephone conversation took place on the initiative of Kyiv. He stressed that Belarus always stands for an open dialogue and is ready to conduct it on any sensitive issues.
“The issues were discussed in a positive way. Much was clarified for both sides, primarily for the Ukrainian side. From our side, a statement was clearly made that no one was going to attack,” the minister said in comments that were proved wrong several days later.
He added that Belarus has never departed from the friendly approach in relations with its neighbor Ukraine.
On February 28, Makei was quoted by Belta as saying that Belarus was ready to contribute to the resolution of the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
“Of course, all Belarusians are interested in having a concrete result,” he said according to the agency.
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