On March 24, the Belarusian authorities sentenced Andżelika Borys, Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus, to 15 days of administrative arrest.
On Tuesday evening, security officers made an unexpected visit to Borys’ place and detained her. An administrative case was initiated against the woman over allegedly violating the rules of holding mass events (Article 24.23 of the Code of Administrative Offences).
Later, it became known that Andżelika Borys was on trial for her contribution to staging this year’s Kazyuki fair which took place on March, 7 in the city of Hrodna.
“She was tried under the article regarding ‘illegal mass events’. In particular, for the Kazyuki fair which is usually held on the anniversary of the death of St. Casimir. This day is yearly marked in Hrodna, but their [authorities’] reaction has been different this year. The trial was conducted behind the closed doors on the premises of the detention centre. It was the policemen who were giving testimony there. Only a defence lawyer was present, no one else was let in,” Andrzej Poczobut, a Hrodna-based journalist and member of the Union of Poles, told belsat.eu.
In the wake of the detention, Alyaksandr Chasnouski, a counsellor at the Belarusian Embassy in Poland, was called in to the Polish Foreign Ministry. When reached by Belsat after the meeting, the diplomat declined comment on the situation. According to the Polish side, the representative of Belarusian diplomacy received a ‘clear message’ that the actions taken by Belarusian authorities are contrary to that country’s international obligations to protect national minorities as well as Polish-Belarusian bilateral commitments to protect the Polish national minority.
“The activities of the Union of Poles in Belarus focus on cultivating Polish culture and tradition as well as supporting Polish education and Polish language learning. The arrest of Andżelika Borys, who was elected just a few days ago for another term of office, is tantamount to eliminating Polish identity and not only deals a blow to the good relations with Poland but also inflicts damage to Belarus’s traditional multiculturalism,” the official statement reads.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the persecution of Polish activists in Belarus and promised to raise the issue at the upcoming European Council meeting.
— Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland (@PremierRP_en) March 24, 2021
In March, another diplomatic conflict broke out between Warsaw and Minsk. This year’s commemorating the so called Cursed Soldiers by Polish organisations in Belarus resulted in the country’s Foreign Ministry’s expelling Jerzy Timofiejuk, a Polish consul in Brest, who showed up at the event. A bit later, Minsk also demanded the removal of Jarosław Książek, a Polish consul in Hrodna. The expulsion prompted retaliatory diplomatic steps – two Belarusian consuls were asked to leave Poland.
On March 11, Alyaksandr N., one of the co-founders of the Brest-based organisation Polish School, was arrested on the back of the criminal case launched over the celebration of Cursed Soldiers’ Day in Brest in late February. According to the Belarusian side, a group of persons ‘committed deliberate actions aimed at justifying Nazism and inciting national hatred’. On March 12, Hanna Panishava, the director of Polish School, was detained on her way to Belarus from Poland, then she was taken into custody as part of the above-mentioned case. Shortly before the detention, Panishava posted an appeal to the public; she believes that the authorities fabricate the charges, aiming at the liquidation of the school.