Situation of Poles in Belarus extremely difficult - ambassador

The situation of Poles in Belarus is extremely difficult, Poland's ambassador to Minsk said during a visit to Vilnius where he held talks with Belarusian opposition activist Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Belarus has been in a state of social turmoil since disputed elections last year returned the incumbent President Aleksander Lukashenko for a sixth term in a ballot protesters maintain was rigged. There have been widescale anti-establishment demonstrations, and in recent weeks a number of Polish activists have been arrested.

"The situation of Poles (in Belarus) in recent years has never been exceptionally good, but in recent days, in fact weeks, they have been very difficult," Artur Michalski told journalists in the Lithuanian capital.

The ambassador pointed out that among Poles in Belarus "people are arrested, there are further repressions, (Polish) schools have been closed" in Brest, western Belarus. He said the situation had worsened "the possibility of establishing some deeper dialogue."

"We will try to help as much as possible, especially those who are in prison," said Michalksi, who was recalled to Poland for consultations in October 2020.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lost to Lukashenko in the August 2020 presidential ballot, but claims to have secured a winning majority, said that "repressions against Poles are unacceptable." She expressed the conviction that imprisoned Poles will become used as political pawns. "It cannot be ruled out that they will be a bargaining chip in the future and we do not want to let that happen," she said.