Belarus’s foreign minister Vladimir Makei, a long-time associate of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, has died at the age of 64.
Authorities did not name the cause of death, and Mr Makei was not known to suffer any chronic illness.
Before becoming foreign minister in 2012, he served as Mr Lukashenko’s chief of staff and earlier worked as presidential adviser.
Mr Lukashenko offered his condolences to Mr Makei’s family, according to the presidential office.
During his tenure as Belarus’s top diplomat, the country came under repeated criticism from the West for an increasingly harsh suppression of the opposition, for dubious elections and for allowing Russian troops to use its territory to attack Ukraine.
In September, Mr Makei defended Belarus’s position to the United Nations Security Council.
“Belarus is referred to as an ‘accomplice of the aggressor’ or even a party to the conflict. We have said and continue to say: Belarus has never advocated the war. But we are not traitors either!” he said in a reference to Belarus’s close alliance with Russia.
“We have allied commitments, and we are strictly following and will follow the spirit and letter of international treaties to which we are parties.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that ministry officials were shocked by the news of Mr Makei’s death.