US embassy official vows to hold Belarus to account

The head of the US embassy in Warsaw has expressed his concern over the detention of Andrzej Poczobut, a representative of the Union of Poles in Belarus, and said the embassy will hold Belarus to account.

"The detention of Poczobut, another representative of the Union of Poles in Belarus, is very concerning and arouses fear," Bix Aliu, the charge d'affaires ad interim, wrote on Twitter. "We will continue to act to hold the Belarusian government accountable and call for a cessation to the systematic repression," Aliu tweeted in Polish on Thursday.

On Thursday morning, Andrzej Poczobut, a member of the management board of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZBP), was detained in the western Belarusian city of Grodno.

Two days earlier, on Tuesday, the ZBP's president, Andzelika Borys, was detained and on Wednesday sentenced to 15 days' arrest for organising "an illegal mass event," which the Belarusian authorities say was organised on March 7, the day of the traditional annual Grodno Kaziuki fair.

On Thursday morning, searches were conducted at the ZBP's Grodno headquarters and at members' apartments. The searches started in Poczobut's apartment and at that of the president of the ZBP's Vawkavysk branch, Maria Tiszkowska.

Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has objected to the detentions and appealed for "a cessation to the repression of the Polish minority." Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that he would discuss Borys's detention with EU leaders during a two-day European Council summit that starts on Thursday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said on Thursday that the foreign ministry would intervene with its Belarusian counterpart to demand the release of those detained and added that the Polish consul was active in situ.