A Kingston University academic on a trip to Belarus has been expelled from the country and told not to return for five years.
Alan Flowers, who has been involved with academic exchanges with Belarus for the past 12 years, was on his way to meet the rector of the International Sakharov Environmental University in Minsk last week.
But he was intercepted by a Belarussian immigration official and a KGB officer who confiscated his passport, and told him his presence in Belarus was illegal. The next day he was told he was on a list of people not permitted to enter the country.He was expelled and forbidden to return for five years.
Back in Britain, Dr Flowers still believes in continued academic cooperation and has argued that the British Council's presence in Minsk should be reinstated. "We must not confuse the actions of the present administration with the strong desire of the academic community in Belarus to strengthen relations with Britain," he said.
According to his deportation order, Dr Flowers was banned in February 2004, but the Belarussian embassy in London issued a 12-month multiple entry visa five weeks later. He was subsequently invited to Minsk by the Belarussian State University. Belarussian officials have not explained the reasons for the expulsion.
The deportation coincided with the withdrawal of the operating licence for the internationally funded European Humanities University in Minsk, the flagship institution for international academic collaboration.
The European Union presidency condemned a Belarussian "strategy aimed at harassing potential sources of dissent and non-aligned thinking, politically motivated and part of a determined move to repress civil society in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in October".
It said the closure of the university would have "dire consequences" for scientific, educational and cultural cooperation between Belarus and EU states.
Dr Flowers, who has researched the distribution of fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion, has been instrumental in the development of the BSU's business school. He said he may have developed too high a profile in the country.