Poland pushes for EU sanctions against Belarus
Poland is close to persuading the EU to impose sanctions on Belarus over the sentencing of opposition figures, the government's spokesman said on Thursday.
A court in Minsk sentenced opposition leaders Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushko to 15 and 18 years in prison respectively, Radio Svaboda, the name of US broadcaster Radio Free Europe in Belarus, reported on Monday.
Both sentences were passed in absentia. Tsikhanouskaya and Latushko both left Belarus to avoid further persecution by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller told a Thursday press conference that Warsaw had already filed a motion with the EU for sanctions on Minsk over previous convictions of the Lukashenko regime's opponents.
In early February, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and activist of the Polish minority in Belarus, was convicted of 'inciting national hatred and rehabilitating Nazism' and sentenced to eight years in prison.
"We consider Belarus's earlier actions to be sufficient to impose sanctions on that country similar to the economic sanctions on Russia," Mueller said, adding that the bloc's tenth package of sanctions against Moscow contained the provision that in the near future Brussels would take up the matter of sanctions against Minsk.
"From what I know, we are close to persuading our European allies to adopt such sanctions against Belarus," Mueller continued.
The spokesman said some were lobbying for the Belarus sanctions to be less severe than those on Russia but that Poland advocated a similar degree of severity. Mueller added that far-reaching sanctions were the only way to make Minsk realise that it "should turn back from the road it has chosen."
The prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has said Poland would propose during EU Council discussions the inclusion on the sanctions list of individuals directly or indirectly involved in the opposition activists' trials.