Belarusian president accuses Poland of plotting to overthrow him in order to recarve border

YURAS KARMANAU Associated Press

MINSK, Belarus (AP) - The authoritarian president of Belarus accused neighboring Poland on Thursday of plotting to overthrow him in order to recarve the border between the two countries.

President Alexander Lukashenko told parliament that Poland wants to move the border east some 150 miles (250 kilometers) to the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where it was before the start of the World War II.

"Some people see a border near Minsk in their dreams," he said.

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Asked to comment on Lukashenko's claim, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Bosacki said "we will not react to this kind of provocation."

Lukashenko has previously accused Poland and Germany of plotting to overthrow him, claims both countries have rejected.

The Soviet Union's Red Army invaded Poland and seized its eastern part weeks after the Nazi attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, which marked the start of World War II. The Soviet offensive followed a pact with Nazi Germany on carving up Europe.

After World War II, the Soviet Union returned a small part of the annexed territory to Poland, but the bulk of it remained in what became the Soviet republic of Belarus. In 1991, Belarus declared its independence as the Soviet Union fell.

Lukashenko, often called Europe's last dictator, has led the country since 1994. In December, he was re-elected with nearly 80 percent of the ballot in a vote widely regarded as fraudulent. Mass protests against vote fraud were violently dispersed by police, who arrested more than 700 demonstrators, including seven of nine opposition candidates challenging Lukashenko.

The European Union has threatened to re-impose travel restrictions on Lukashenko and his top officials over the flawed elections and his crackdown on the opposition. The tensions between the EU and Belarus are pushing Belarus into closer to its traditional ally and master, Russia.

Lukashenko scoffed at the EU threats on Thursday. "Don't try to scare us," he said.

Some observers see Lukashenko's anti-Western rhetoric as an attempt to distract the public from the country's worsening economic situation.

"Lukashenko is looking for enemies and stepping up repressions in order to prevent the opposition from taking lead of the brewing protests amid a severe economic crisis," said Alexander Klaskovsky, an independent political analyst.

Monika Scislowska contributed to this report from Warsaw.


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