Protests at Belarusian school against Polish exchange teacher ban

Deutsche Presse Agentur

Minsk- The students and staff of a Belarusian middle school quit classes on Monday to protest a government ban on exchange teachers from Poland. The walkout took place in the city of Volokovysk in the western Grodno province. Police were monitoring the peaceful demonstration but otherwise not interfering with marchers.

The protest consisting of children grades 8 through 11 and their teachers came after Grodno authorities enforced a ban against Polish teachers working at any school in the region.

Alekesander Lukashenko, Belarus' authoritarian president, has accused Warsaw of trying to undermine his regime through contacts with Belarus' extensive Polish minority.

Belarusian KGB agents working inside the country's Polish political groups were responsible over the last two years for a string of arrests and detentions of leaders of ethnic Pole cultural groups alleged to be working with Warsaw towards Lukashenko's overthrow.

Belarusian organizers were jailed, and Polish diplomats expelled as a result of the crack down.

Poland's government has described its officials' links with ethnic Polish groups in Belarus as intended only to promote cultural exchange, and not intended to destabilise the Lukashenko regime.

The illegal march in Volkovysk was a rare case of public opposition to even a small part of Lukashenko's near total control of the control.

Riot police acting on Lukashenko's orders in March used clubs and attack dogs to break up crowds protesting the former collective farm head's technically unconstitutional re-election to a third term of office.