Belarusian-Polish activists freed after Kazakh ex-president's appeal - Minsk

The spokesperson for Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, has attributed the freeing of three Belarusian-Polish activists to the intervention of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's first independent president.

Natalla Ejsmont said the release of Irena Biernacka, Maria Tishkovska and Anna Panisheva was the subject of talks in April between Nazarbayev and Lukashenko, during which the former Kazakh head of state asked for their release.

Biernacka, Tishkovska and Panisheva were arrested in Belarus in March and charged with a number of offences, including propagating Nazism. Among those detained was Andzelika Borys, the leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus, who is still incarcerated.

"Do you remember the talks between the Belarusian president and the first president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev? Well, they took place in mid-April, and it was then that the freeing of some activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus was discussed,” Ejsmonst said. “And it was (Nazarbayev) who asked for their release. And then came the decision."

Poland has expressed its alarm over the brutal suppression of pro-democracy movements by the Lukashenko regime, and its apparent targeting of leaders of Belarus’s Polish community.

Lukashenko has accused some of the leaders of promoting Nazism due to their commemoration of Polish WWII resistance fighters.

The EU appealed for the release of Polish activists. Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, has said the Belarusian authorities' persecution of the country's Polish minority could result in new sanctions on Minsk.