Lukashenko takes credit for release of Polish minority leader

Borys has been under house arrest since March. Artur Reszko/PAP

Aleksander Lukashenko, the Belarusian strongman, has claimed that it was thanks to his decision that a Polish minority leader was released in March after a year spent in prison and moved to house arrest.

Andżelika Borys, head of the Union of Poles in Belarus, was detained in the western city of Grodno on March 23, 2021, initially for organising a cultural event deemed "illegal" by the Minsk authorities but was later charged with inciting national and religious hatred and sowing discord on the grounds of national, religious and linguistic affiliation. The prosecutor accused her of promoting Nazism, a crime which carries a penalty of up to 12 years in prison.

But Lukashenko said he had personally decided to let Borys out in March after her mother pleaded for her release. The Belarusian president said the release was a sign of his good will as he was "always ready to jump into fire to save people."

Borys has been under house arrest since March.

Lukashenko also denied accusations that he has used political prisoners to bargain with the West, which has imposed severe sanctions on Minsk for its crackdown on opposition, instigating a migration crisis on the Polish and Lithuanian borders and supporting Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine.

The Belarusian regime has detained hundreds of protesters, oppositionists, independent journalists and minority leaders, including the Andrzej Poczobut, a Polish minority activist who is still in prison.

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