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Alexander Lukashenko seems to acknowledge that Belarus's relations with foreign countries do not look particularly good right now. During a Tuesday meeting with the Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, he pointed out that “it is necessary to put them in order”. By “order” Lukashenko means maintaining good relations with countries who "do not give Belarus any ultimatums, pay in rubles, dollars or euros, and are ready to cooperate ".

Closing embassies in „hostile countries”

According to the contested Belarusian president, there is no point in making any efforts where diplomatic relations have deteriorated and economic relations have been "stalled". - Why should we waste our money on maintaining embassies and diplomats in such countries? - Lukashenko asked, citing Poland and Lithuania as primary examples. The Belarusian leader was quick to add that diplomats will still be able to communicate "on some international platform" should any common issues arise that usually need to be discussed through embassies and consulates.

The idea of closing diplomatic and consular posts in Poland was not the only reflection on the "ungrateful neighbor" that Lukashenka expressed during the meeting. He accused Poland of playing a double game and being involved in a long-time secret operation aimed at organizing a 'color revolution' in Belarus: - In June, they were still singing sweet songs straight to our ears, although we now know that their foreign intelligence services and other organizations were all over the place- he said about Poland.

Lukashenko: These are our Poles

Lukashenko claims that Warsaw's hostility towards Belarus is evidenced by, among other things, "accusations of falsifying the results of the presidential election, welcoming extremists and traitors who fled Belarus, and supporting refugees”. The allegedly criminal acts committed by the "illegal organization from Hrodna", the independent Union of Poles in Belarus, has apparently been the last turn of the screw. –They glorified bandits and Nazis and they weren’t even hiding it! - Lukashenka said.

He further emphasized that Poles living in Belarus are subject to Belarusian law and have been Belarusian citizens for generations. Thus, he sent the Polish authorities a clear message that foreign interventions won’t have any effect and that they should get used to treating the Polish minority in Belarus as citizens of a foreign country. – There is much talk right now about the persecution of Poles. Once again, I would like to say this to the Polish authorities: yes, there are many Poles who live here. But these are our Poles. Their homeland is Belarus. They lived here, their children live here, and they will continue to live here. Whoever wants to leave is free to do so, we’re not forcing anyone to stay. But those who live here are Belarusian citizens, they are our Poles- he said.

„Poland will get a smack in the face”

Lukashenko also declared that although he does not intend to wage war with anyone and realizes that "one cannot choose one’s neighbors", should Poland continue to treat Belarus the way it does now, it will "get a smack in the face". - We will no longer just stand by and watch, we will react appropriately, as we did in Hrodna- he said.

He also announced that a team of political scientists and historians is currently working on and wants to bring back the topic of "Polish occupation of Belarus" in the 1920s and 1930s.

Members of the Union of Poles in Belarus are facing repressions

On March 25, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Belarus initiated criminal proceedings against activists associated with the Union of Poles in Belarus. The organization is not officially recognized by Belarusian authorities. UPB members who have already been detained are the head of the Union Andżelika Borys, journalist and foreign correspondent of Gazeta Wyborcza Andrzej Poczobut, activists Maria Tiszkowska, Irena Biernacka and Anna Paniszewa.

The prosecution announced that criminal proceedings against UPB activists have been initiated under section 130 of the Belarusian Criminal Code, i.e. "intentional actions aimed at inciting national and religious hatred and discord on the basis of national, religious, linguistic and other affiliations, as well as the rehabilitation of Nazism”. Mr. Poczobut and Ms. Tiszkowska have already been formally charged and might be facing between 5 and 12 years in prison.

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Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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