Belarus detains more ethnic Poles despite EU call

Belarussian police detained about 20 activists from the ethnic Polish community, ignoring a call from EU to respect minority rights.

Belarus detains more ethnic Poles despite EU call

Belarussian police detained about 20 activists from the ethnic Polish community on Wednesday, ignoring a call from the European Union to respect minority rights and stoking tension with Warsaw.

Last week Warsaw recalled its ambassador from Minsk after Belarussian police seized a building used by the Union of Poles in the town of Ivenets, about 70 km (44 miles) west of Minsk.

On Wednesday, police detained the Union activists on their way to Ivenets to attend a trial of the head of their local branch, the Union's deputy head Angelika Orekhvo told Reuters.

This followed the arrests of around 40 ethnic Polish protesters on Monday and a violent police crackdown on a rally of their supporters in Minsk on Tuesday.

Relations between the ex-Soviet republic and its EU neighbour Poland have periodically soured over Belarus's treatment of the minority, which numbers about 400,000 people in a country of 10 million.

Minsk accused Polish media on Wednesday of "indulging in an anti-Belarussian campaign".

"Polish media reports, distorting the real state of things and actual facts, mislead Poland's political circles and public opinion and negatively influence the climate of Belarussian-Polish ties," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The EU condemned on Tuesday the arrests of ethnic Polish and other civil society activists, saying: "These developments undermine our efforts to strengthen relations between the European Union and Belarus."

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who brooks little dissent and has ruled his nation with an iron hand since 1994, has been wooing the EU while ties with close ally Russia soured over energy prices and other issues.

In 2005 the Union of Poles split into a pro-Lukashenko branch and an opposition movement. Authorities have been putting pressure on the opposition Poles, suspecting the West of attempting to use them to upset public order in Belarus.

Reuters

Last Mod: 17 Şubat 2010, 21:25
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