EU, Poland urge Belarus to release Polish minority leaders

·2 min read

WARSAW, Poland — The European Union and Poland have called for the release of Polish minority leaders arrested in Belarus this week.

A criminal case has been opened against Andzelika Borys, head of the non-political Union of Poles in Belarus, for allegedly inciting social hatred with the organization's activity. The accusations could carry up to 12 years in prison.

Belarus police also arrested prominent union member Andrzej Poczobut. They searched his home and the offices of the union, which organizes gatherings dedicated to Polish history and traditions.

Some 300,000 ethnic Poles live in neighbouring Belarus, about 3.1% of the country's population.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged Belarusian authorities Thursday to release both "immediately and unconditionally, along with all political prisoners currently detained.”

Belarus has been swept by protests calling for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who was re-elected in August for his sixth term in an election generally seen as rigged. Borys and Poczobut were not arrested during protests.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Thursday he will seek co-operation with neighbouring Lithuania and Latvia to impose sanctions on Belarus, for its “repression” of the minority.

He also called on the leaders in Minsk to “come to their senses” over the issue.

An analyst with the Center for Eastern Studies think-tank , Kamil Klysinski said Friday that the approach to the Polish minority is one of the elements of the internal tensions in Belarus.

The fact that the union is an independent body, financed by Poland and not recognized by Belarusian law, has made it a target of repression, he said, and strained bilateral relations are adding to the tension.

"As a nation that has been actively calling for sanctions on Belarus after August and supporting the opposition in Belarus, Poland has become the target of propaganda and political attacks by the Belarusian authorities,' Klysinski told The Associated Press.

The Associated Press