War of words

A diplomatic war has broken out between Warsaw and Minsk. The Belarussian authorities have asked the first secretary of the Polish embassy to leave, following an announcement by the Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld that Belarusian officials involved in a crackdown on the Association of Poles in Belarus will not be allowed to enter Poland. Krysia Kolosowska reports.

The Polish diplomat asked to leave Belarus, Marek Bucko, is responsible for cooperation with the 400 thousand strong Polish minority in Belarus and with the country's democratic opposition.

A few weeks ago, Belarus's authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko charged the Polish embassy in Minsk with subversive activities among the Polish minority. Then, the regime cracked down on the Union of Poles in Belarus, declaring the March elections of its officials null and void.

The Polish foreign ministry said it was indignant. Minister Adam Rotfeld declared that Belarusian officials involved in intimidating the Union of Poles will not be allowed to enter Poland.

"They will be blacklisted with no right of travel to Poland and to other EU countries. Poland can take such a step at once. As for other EU members, the required procedures will take some time."

Democratization of the Lukeshenko regime in Belarus - dubbed Europe's last dictatorship - was a dominant theme at the just concluded Council of Europe Summit in Warsaw. Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski slammed human rights violations there.

Leader of the Belarusian opposition National Front Ales Mikhalevich is convinced that peaceful democratization of Belarus is possible, provided that its people overcome the barrier of fear.

"We need to change and I think that the moment of change is close. People, especially in Minsk, are very discontent. They are better prepared now for transformations and I think that no blood will shed in Belarus either."

Polish MEP and member of the EU delegation for Belarus, Bogdan Klich says the European Commission should take a clear stand on the Lukashenko regime.

Rafal Sadowski of the Eastern Studies Center welcomes the resolution of the Council of Europe summit on Belarus but believes that the EU rather than the Council can be more effective in promoting democratic changes there.

The spirit of defiance can be observed in Belarus among its young generation. Analysts believe that the peaceful orange revolution in neighboring Ukraine and developments there may encourage similar transformations in Belarus.