Polish and Belarusian societies must not be antagonised - president
Poland will not allow antagonising of the Polish and Belarusian nations in spite of the Belarusian government's false accusations against Poles living in Belarus, President Andrzej Duda said after a meeting with Belarusian Poles in Warsaw on Thursday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has accused some leaders of the Polish minority in Belarus of promoting Nazism due to their commemoration of Polish WWII underground fighters.
Belarus accuses some of the anti-communist partisans of crimes against Belarusian civilians.
Speaking at a press conference following a meeting with three Polish minority leaders, Irena Biernacką, Anna Paniszewa and Marią Tiszkowska, who have managed to leave Belarus amid persecution, President Duda said that until recently they had been held in a Belarusian prison but were released due to Polish diplomatic efforts.
"I would like to stress that we as the Polish authorities and I as the Polish president will do everything to prevent dividing Poles and Belarusians," Duda said.
"An attempt to introduce such divisions between Poles and Belarusians through false accusations of promoting Nazism, which was obviously a tragedy both for Poles and Belarusians during WWII (...) is a vile and horrible accusation," the Polish president also said.
The Lukashenko regime has imprisoned Andzelika Borys, the head of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), and Andrzej Poczobut, a ZPB board member, on such charges.
Both Polish and EU officials, including the EU foreign policy chief, have made appeals for their release.
Seated in Grodno, a city with a large Polish population, the ZPB is the biggest Polish diaspora organisation in Belarus. In 2005, the authorities in Minsk revoked its registration.
The union's statutory activities include nurturing Polishness and Polish culture, teaching the language and maintaining memorial sites. (PAP)
Also on Friday, Duda met with Belarusian opposition leaders Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Pavel Latushko to discuss the current situation in Belarus and how Poland could help the activities of the Belarusian opposition.
After the talks, Duda said that he had pledged to support the Belarusian cause on the international stage.
"I promised them that we would talk about the Belarusian issue... and argue on their behalf... wherever they cannot be at a given moment, about the real expectations of... the Belarusian people and in which direction they want to go... so that they can decide about their own affairs, as a society, as voters," Duda said.
He added that it is in the Polish interest to have a sovereign and independent state as an eastern neighbour, a state "that has its own affairs, is governed by democratic principles, in which people live as free people, participate in elections, believing that their vote counts and translates into the election result."
"Poland has no other expectations," Duda said.