Belarus retaliates for Bobrowniki border crossing closure

Poland closed the Bobrowniki crossing on February 10, stating "reasons of national interest." Artur Reszko/PAP

Restrictions on Polish hauliers and the expulsion of a Polish border guard liaison officer were announced by the Belarusian foreign ministry on Friday as retaliatory steps for Poland's closure of the Bobrowniki border crossing between the two countries.

The measures were announced at a meeting with the Polish charge d'affaires, whom the ministry summoned in the matter.

The ministry also said that the number of staff at the Polish General Consulate in Grodno, western Belarus, should be made equal with the staff of the Belarusian General Consulate in Białystok, northeast Poland.

Under the new regulations, Polish hauliers will be able to enter Belarus only across the Polish-Belarusian border. This means Polish truckers will not be able to cross into Belarus from Lithuania or Latvia.

Poland closed the Bobrowniki crossing on February 10, stating "reasons of national interest."

The crossing is one of the major transit points between the two countries and was a hotspot during the 2021 migration crisis when thousands of people tried to get into Poland from Belarus.

Poland's interior minister, Mariusz Kamiński, wrote on Twitter on Friday evening that if Belarus introduces the announced haulage restrictions, Poland will answer with "identical" measures against Belarusian hauliers.

Also later on Friday, Łukasz Jasina, the foreign ministry spokesperson, told PAP that Poland had received the Belarusian restrictions calmly.

"We are analysing the situation in connection with the Belarusian side's reaction after the closure of the border crossing in Bobrowniki. This kind of reaction means all possible scenarios are on the table. We will decide calmly within the coming days," Jasina said.

When announcing the closure of the Bobrowniki crossing, Kaminski also said he had decided to include more people connected with the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, on a sanctions list in connection with the conviction and jailing by a Belarusian court of Andrzej Poczobut, a Polish-Belarusian activist.

Poczobut, who is also a journalist, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a court in Grodno last Wednesday. Arrested in March 2021, he was accused of "instigating hatred against religious and national groups, and rehabilitating Nazism."

Poczobut was active for the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), a Polish minority organisation that has been delegalised by the Belarusian authorities.