Poland warns Belarus on ethnic Poles

Author : DPA

Minsk - Warsaw warned Belarusian authoritarian leader Aleksander Lukashenko on Monday to allow ethnic Poles in the former Soviet republic the right of assembly, or face further isolation. "Aleksander Lukashenko cannot be invited to the European Union summit in Prague, unless he respects the rights of the Polish minority in his country," according to a Polish government letter made public by ethnic Polish activists in Belarus.

Opposition news reports identified Anzhelika Boris, head of the Union of Poles of Belarus, as the person making the letter public.

The message had reportedly been sent through diplomatic channels. There was no early official Belarus comment on the Polish government letter.

The Lukashenko regime in recent months has embarked on an intense anti-ethic Pole campaign, with the Belarusian state-controlled media almost daily accusing ethnic Polish community groups in Belarus of being funded by Western intelligence services.

Police in the west Belarusian city Grodno on March 3 detained Andrzej Poczobut, a reporter for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza on charges of participating in an illegal gathering.

An ethnic Pole and Belarusian citizen, Poczobut covered an anti- government demonstration of mostly ethnic Poles in January.

Boris, also present at the march, later received in the mail a video tape depicting her participation in pornographic activity. She said the Belarusian KGB had faked the images as an intimidation tactic.

Some 390,000 ethnic Poles live in Belarus, of whom some 25,000 are active Polish Union members, according to opposition reports.

Many ethnic Poles living in Belarus receive material assistance from Poland, making Belarusian ethnic Poles on of the few groups in Belarus not wholly dependant on the centrally-planned Belarusian economy.

Lukashenko's travel to most developed nations currently is banned, because human rights violation concerns by the US and the European Union. Poland is one of the EU's most inveterate critics of the Lukashenko regime.

Lukashenko in statements earlier this year expressed hope he would be able to attend an upcoming EU summit in Prague in May, signaling a thaw in relations between Belarus and the West.



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