Polish? German? Dangerous?

There are not that many people whose shoes I would never like to try on. But one of them is definitely Belarus foreign minister Martynau.

Think of a highly educated person able to fill large shoes. But, Martynau's function is actually limited to promoting foreign trade. Foreign policy is drafted in the administration of the president. The foreign affairs chief serves as a postman to deliver messages to/from Lukashenka and as a whipping boy during international scandals.

How would a minister explain the newest escalating conflict with the Polish minority? On Friday (February 12) Martynau was in Warsaw to meet his Polish counterpart and to receive a letter to the Belarusian president with a list of proposals what Poland could do, if the Belarusian authorities don't stop harassing the minority.

Since 2005 there are two Unions of Poles in existance. The head of the government-approved one, who won non-competitive elections, is rumoured not to speak any Polish at all, the head of the unofficial one, Angelika Borys, is supported by Warsaw.

The "reply" to the Polisf letter came right the following Monday (February 15): some 40 Polish minority activists were detained, several immediately faced trial for organising a demonstration a week ago. Borys got a fine of 1 million Belarusian roubles (some ?250).

The day after HR Ashton raised her eyebrows about the conflict (February 17), the detentions continued. Are Belarusian Poles so destructive and dangerous?

Who you gonna call? "Hello, Mr Martynau, could you please explain us what :is going on?"

HR Ashton said today (February 22) she would hope to talk to Minister Matrynov about the situation with the Polish minority during presidential inauguration in Kiev on Thursday.

There could be a dozen of unofficial explanations of the status quo: the need of Minsk to take in hand the independent Polish union, to gain full control a year before presidential elections and show everyone who is the boss with a victorious fight against an assumed "enemy." It could also be Minsk's way of showing how disillusioned it is with the slow thaw of bilateral relations with the EU. It might be the two wings of power within the regime in dispute over which way to go - East or West? Some Polish experts tend to think it's Russian PM Putin putting pressure on the EU to see how far it is willing to step into Polish and Russian strategic interests in the region.

Now the concert of German Rammstein is about to be forbidden: The Council on Morals fears that it will destroy nothing less than Belarusian statehood and identity.

Mr Martynau, is the system really so fragile?


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