OSCE to use all diplomatic instruments to help Poles in Belarus
President Andrzej Duda has been assured by the OSCE secretary general that the organisation will take advantage of all available diplomatic instruments to improve the situation of Poles living in Belarus, a presidential aide told PAP on Tuesday.
President Duda held a meeting with the Secretary General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Helga Schmid on Tuesday. The meeting was mainly devoted to the situation of the Polish minority in Belarus.
"The president said that the situation was not improving and the repressions against the Polish minority were aggravating. The OSCE secretary general assured that the OSCE would use all available diplomatic instruments to improve the situation of Poles in Belarus," the head of the presidential International Policy Bureau Krzysztof Szczerski told PAP.
Relations between Warsaw and Minsk chilled after the Belarusian strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, started to use anti-Polish rhetoric amid domestic protests against last August's presidential election that Lukashenko claims he won, but the opposition says was rigged.
In March, Belarus authorities detained the President of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) Andżelika Borys. She was first sentenced to detention for organising the traditional Kaziuki Fair which the authorities recognised as an "illegal event."
Later on, Borys and three other activists of the ZPB were placed under arrest after being accused of "inciting national and religious feuds," "rehabilitating Nazism" and "praising war criminals, including Romuald Rajs Bury" during a ceremony organised by the union. The activists have dismissed the accusations as unfounded.
According to the prosecution an "illegal mass event" had been organised on the premises of a Polish school during which speakers praised Romuald Rajs "Bury" who, in the eyes of Minsk, is responsible for raids on Belarusian villages in 1946 and the killing of civilians, including women and children.
The organisers and the Polish side categorically deny such allegations although they do confirm that on February 28 commemorations were organised on the occasion of Cursed Soldiers' Day. The cursed soldiers were underground partisans who fought the communist regime in Poland after World War II.
In March, Belarus expelled a Polish consul for taking part in the ceremony. The diplomatic row culminated last month in the tit-for-tat expulsion of three Polish diplomats from Belarus and three Belarusian diplomats from Poland.
The authorities of Poland, the EU and other countries have called on Belarus to comply with international norms regarding the treatment of minorities and appealed for the release of the Polish activists.
The Union of Poles in Belarus is the largest organisation of the Polish minority in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration.