Belarus ambassador warns EU over sanctions


EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The Belarusian ambassador to the EU has called for the union to back off in a row over the country's ethnic Polish minority.

The ambassador, Vladimir Senko, made the remarks in an open letter to the media on Tuesday (23 February) entitled: "EU is concerned, but Belarus asks for patience."

Mr Lukashenko. Belarus' ambassador to the EU said it should stay out of the Polish minority dispute (Photo:

He complained that some Polish "official bodies" have given the EU institutions a "perverted interpretation of [the] real situation in the Polish national minority," citing an unspecified "recent" survey in which 97 percent of Poles in Belarus had said they "do not consider themselves to be discriminated or prejudiced [against]."

Referring to an ongoing debate in Brussels on whether to impose fresh sanctions on Belarus, Mr Senko said: "Any attempts to influence from outside as well as attempts to force the authorities of Belarus to support any of the conflict parties, are not only unacceptable, but also counterproductive."

The debate comes after a recent crackdown on the Union of Poles in Belarus, which saw around 40 activists, including its leader Angelika Borys, briefly arrested last week. The union is the largest independent NGO in the country.

Ms Borys is visiting the EU parliament on Tuesday and Wednesday in a bid to boost her international profile to help protect herself back home.

On Tuesday she advised the EU to avoid punitive measures and instead focus on making visas cheaper and easier to get. "For me, it's important that Belarusians can enter Europe more simply," she said.

The crackdown came as a surprise after a warming-up of EU-Belarus relations over the past year, which saw the union suspend travel sanctions against its authoritarian president and invite him to a special summit in Prague.

One theory doing the rounds in EU capitals is that the crackdown represents a struggle between a pro-EU and pro-Russia factions in President Aleksander Lukashenko's administration, with the pro-Russia side ordering the arrests to spoil EU relations.

Mr Lukashenko did not intervene because he may have been in Switzerland undergoing an operation on his prostate, according to one senior EU diplomat. "That's just gossip. I can't comment on that," a Belarusian diplomat said.

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton is due to meet with Belarus foreign minister Sergei Martynov in Kiev on 25 February during the inauguration ceremony for Ukraine's new president.

"We are concerned about the police action against the Union of Poles in Belarus and their chairwoman, Angelika Borys. These developments constitute a setback in our relationship," she said after an EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday.


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