Belarusians must decide their future - MoD

Łukasz Gągulski/PAP

Belarusians must be supported in their strive for freedom but it is they alone who will have to decide about their future, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Thursday on Polish Radio, commenting ongoing protests in Belarus after Sunday's presidential elections.

Blaszczak noted that the Belarusians were receiving support from their neighbours, and in this context pointed to the Polish and Lithuanian presidents' declaration to mediate in the crisis, and the Polish prime minister's recent call for a special European Council sitting on Belarus. He stressed, however, that the situation had to be resolved by the Belarusians themselves, as no one from outside could do it for them.

"No one will solve this for the Belarusians, this is a Belarusian affair. We support civic attitudes and freedom trends, but it is the Belarusians themselves who will have to decide about their future," Blaszczak said.

Blaszczak said the developments in Belarus showed the Belarusians were "awakening," and reminded that 31 years ago the Poles also received support in their freedom struggle with communism. He added, however, that the current situation should be resolved by peaceful means, and without violence used against demonstrators.

Referring to reports that Polish-made blast cartridges were used against the demonstrators, Blaszczak assured that the Polish government had not consented to the sale of such ammunition to Belarus, and no arms manufacturer under the Polish Armament Group (PGZ) produced it.

"There was no consent by the Polish government for the sale of ammunition to (...) Belarus," Blaszczak said, adding that the discovery of the cartridges may have been a deliberate provocation.

Mass demonstrations broke out in the Belarusian capital Minsk and other cities after Sunday's presidential elections, which gave a further office term to to-date president Alexander Lukashenko. The protests erupted following the announcement of the exit polls, according to which Lukashenko acquired 80 percent of the vote, his main contender, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, ostensibly garnering 9.9 percent. According to the protesters the election results were manipulated.

Belarusian police are using tear gas as well as blast and rubber ammunition against the protesters, more than 6 thousand people have been arrested over the past three days. On Wednesday Belarusian authorities informed about the death of one of the demonstrators.