The Polish government recalled its ambassador to Belarus and urged the European Union Thursday to impose sanctions on the leadership of the country after members of the riot police with guns and dogs stormed a building used by ethnic Poles near the border with Poland.
The predawn raid took place in the western town of Grodno, about 280 kilometers, or 175 miles, west of the capital, Minsk, where most of the country's 400,000 Poles - about 4 percent of the 10.4 million population - live.
It was the latest crackdown against the Polish minority and quickly exacerbated tensions between Belarus, one of the last Communist-style regimes of the former Soviet Union, and Poland, which joined the European Union last year.
Belarus jailed three Polish activists on Wednesday for as long as 15 days for holding an illegal street concert.
The Belarus president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and who is seeking a third term next year, has systematically quashed most forms of opposition to his rule, according to diplomats in Minsk. He had accused the Polish minority of "fomenting revolution," a charge dismissed by Polish diplomats, and there has been a recent series of tit-for-tat expulsions among diplomats from the two countries.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
Support the Belarusian cartoonists
Third Way, the Belarusian organisation whose members are being prosecuted for producing satirical cartoons about Lukashenka,
have set up a web page where you can make a donation via PayPal. The group urgently
need money for their legal defence and operating expenses. Please give what you can today! Read more
We are continuing to focus our efforts on the Belarusian prisoner of conscience Mikhail Marinich.
We are campaigning for him to receive proper medical treatment, to be permitted to see his family,
and ultimately to be released from prison pending a review of his case. You can help by distributing
our factsheets and letters.
Members of these groups have joined our blog to share their views and experiences.