Belarus takes ethnic Poles ‘hostage’, Polish PM says

The Belarusian authorities said that the festivities in Grodno in the north-western part of Belarus had been held in violation of the law. This is the second arrest in recent weeks of an activist from the Polish minority in Belarus. [EPA-EFE/Lukasz Gagulski]

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called on Belarusian authorities to stop harassing Poles living in the country after a minority activist was sentenced to 15 days in jail earlier this week. The issue will be raised at today’s EU summit, the Polish PM said.

Angelika Borys, the President of the Union of Poles in Belarus, received her prison sentence on Tuesday (23 March), causing indignation in Poland.

Borys was tried in connection with the organisation of the traditional annual folk handicraft fair ‘Kaziuki in Grodno’ (St. Casimir’s Fair), which is organised in early March by the Polish population living in Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia, as well as some Polish cities.

Belarusian authorities said the festivities in Grodno, in the north-western part of Belarus, had been held in violation of the law.

This is the second arrest in recent weeks of an activist from the Polish minority in Belarus, and Morawiecki said he would raise the issue at this week’s EU summit, which opens on Thursday (25 March).

“We do not agree with such treatment of Poles, with taking hostages, as it can be said about this type of action, which the Belarusian authorities apply on an increasingly large scale,” Morawiecki said.

“It is an action that does not comply with any international standards. I will talk about this during the European Council,” the Polish PM announced.

According to a Polish diplomat in Brussels, other EU member states also want to discuss the situation in Belarus and the latest developments in the country during Thursday’s video summit.

Preventive detentions of opposition leaders and activists have taken place in Belarus ahead of Thursday’s Freedom Day, which is traditionally celebrated on the anniversary of the proclamation of independence by the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918.

The leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile in Lithuania, has expressed concern over the detention of national minority activists by Belarusian authorities.

In a statement to the media, Tikhanovskaya said Belarusian regime have for many years exerted pressure on national minorities, especially the Polish.

“In the new Belarus there will be a place for everyone: Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Jews and representatives of other nationalities. There will be no place for discrimination in the new Belarus,”  she said.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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