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Story of Igor Leshchenya - Face of Protest #17

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Igor Leshchenya is a Belarusian diplomat and public figure who was the first to support peaceful protesters and spoke out against violence by law enforcement officers.

He joined the diplomatic service in 1991 and was assigned to the Embassy of the USSR in Egypt as a duty desk officer. After disintegration of the USSR in 1991−1994 worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation as an attache of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Egypt. After return to Belarus in 1994 he was appointed Second Secretary of the OSCE department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. From 1995 to 1997 served as the Head of the Asia and Africa Department, Head of the Fourth Political Department of the MFA of Belarus. From 1997−2002 worked as Advisor at the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in the Arab Republic of Egypt and then as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Arab Republic of Egypt. From 2002 until 2006 — Assistant to the President of the Republic of Belarus on foreign policy and foreign economic issues. On the 16th of May 2006 he received the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and was appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the State of Israel. From 2012 to 2016 worked as Head of Asia and Africa Department, Head of Africa and Middle East Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. On June 13, 2016 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus to the Slovak Republic.

During the protests in Belarus on August 16, 2020, Igor recorded a video message in which he expressed support for the protesters and condemned the use of violence by law enforcement agencies. Leshchenya became the first Belarusian diplomat to support the protesters. On August 18, 2020, he resigned and was relieved of his post on August 24. On September 16, 2020, Alexander Lukashenko stripped him of his diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for committing acts incompatible with the state (diplomatic) service.

On September 23, 2020, he initiated the creation of the public movement "I am a citizen"."Created in strict compliance with the current legislation, a broad public movement, which could say its weighty word about the investigation of torture and abuse, and about the future of Belarus, including the reform of the state system," said Igor Leshchenya.

Igor Leshchenia is a delegate of the platform of people’s representatives "SKHOD", which was attacked as part of purging the civil society in Belarus. On August 12 it became known that Igor Leshchenia was detained and placed in a remand prison in Minsk. This was reported by the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" on Thursday. According to its information, the day before the diplomat’s department had been searched. Later, the Investigative Committee of Belarus confirmed the detention. Investigative actions are underway as investigators are considering the ex-ambassador's possible involvement in the "mass disturbances" in Minsk, added in the agency.

On August 15, Igor Leshchenya was recognized as a political prisoner by human rights organizations.