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Three weeks ago, our correspondent and activist of the independent Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB), Andrzej Poczobut, has been arrested by Lukashenko’s police. Together with four other members of the organization, he was brought to a detention center in Minsk.

As the reason for their arrest, Belarusian authorities have initially cited the Cursed Soldiers Commemoration Day that the UPB organized in March in the city of Brest.

Now, the prosecution argues that " since 2018, citizens identifying themselves as members of the Union of Poles in Belarus have carried out a number of large-scale actions in Hrodna and the Hrodna region aimed at glorifying anti-Soviet gangs operating during and after the Great Patriotic War. These gangs were responsible for looting and killing peaceful Belarusian citizens".

The Polish activists face 5 to 12 years in prison for "rehabilitating Nazism" and "inciting conflict based on national sentiment".

Poczobut: „I don’t regret a thing. I won’t give up”

Journalist Andrzej Poczobut, who has already been on trial before for criticizing and 'insulting' President Alexander Lukashenko, sent a letter from the place of his detention. He writes that he was mentally prepared for such a scenario– all the persecution, detention, criminal charges, and a trial.

-I am not sad, I do not regret a thing, and I will not give up. I am slowly preparing for the trial, it will surely be very interesting. I think of all the others who have been confined here within these walls. As they lead me through the corridors, I try to remember the atmosphere, to imagine what this place used to look like. As usual in such moments, I treat the current situation as a delegation, which will surely result in an article or a book" - wrote Mr. Poczobut.

His wife Oksana told us that the administration of the prison deliberately keeps him in isolation and does not forward him any correspondence.

- But he definitely knows that the letters are being sent to him - says Oksana.

Belarusian authorities: „We won’t allow to destabilize the situation”

Last Saturday, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey addressed the issue of the detained Polish activists. In an interview with the regime TV channel Belarus 1, he announced that the authorities would vet all organizations that allegedly "try to destabilize the situation within the country”.

- Now that we have started looking into this issue more deeply, we found many interesting things- Mr. Makey said. - More than 500 different companies and organizations, taking advantage of a loophole in our legislation, have engaged in so-called educational activities. In fact, they operate on the basis of templates and rules that are absolutely alien to our society. We will have to take decisive steps to put things back in order.

The Minister also addressed the growing diplomatic tensions between Poland and Belarus: - Imagine, the head of one country actually accuses the head of another country of committing crimes against humanity. In the past, this would have led to an armed conflict, at least. Today, it's simply one bulldog barking, and other puppies follow suit. That's it. No one is responsible for this cynical, false slander. We are forced to respond to the destructive actions of our western neighbors. They are unacceptable to us. However, we also want to avoid dividing our nations. (...) We receive ever more applications for Belarusian citizenship from our western neighbors.

The Minister also referred to President Lukashenko’s last week’s announcement about Belarus intending to close its embassies in neighboring countries due to their "hostile policy" and lack of benefits resulting from the suspension of cooperation with some of them. However, according to Makey's statement and a report published by the independent portal Tut.by, Minsk cannot in fact afford to suspend its diplomatic missions in Poland. Together with Russia, Ukraine, China, and Germany, Poland is among the five countries with which Belarus developed its closest trade relations.

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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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