Poland is at the forefront of Western pressure as the Belarusian regime tries to play peacemaker
On the eve of new Western sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the Belarusian regime escalated tension with Poland by sentencing Andrzej Poczobut to eight years in a high-security penal colony. Poland reacted decisively by closing one of the border checkpoints on the Belarusian-Polish border and issued an ultimatum regarding the closure of the remaining checkpoints if its demands are unmet. Meanwhile, via the Vatican, Minsk continues to promote the idea of holding Russo-Ukrainian negotiations in Belarus.
On February 8th, Andrzej Poczobut, a journalist and member of the Union of Poles of Belarus (an organisation not recognised by the Belarusian authorities), was sentenced to eight years in a high-security penal colony. Poland condemned this verdict and immediately took action aimed at securing his release. Poland demands that Belarusian authorities cease the persecution of their Polish minority and immediately release Andrzej Poczobut, Anzhelika Boris and all other political prisoners.
Poland will also expand sanctions against Belarusian officials, and almost immediately after the ruling, Polish authorities suspended traffic through the Bobrovniki border checkpoint from midnight on February 10th. Warsaw is prepared to close other border crossings if its demands are unmet. It should be noted that at least 12 Polish customs officers were detained for corruption before the closure of Bobrovniki, so these measures also strike at the smuggling schemes of the Belarusian regime.
In response, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry issued a strong protest, and the Belarusian State Border Committee of Belarus began to forecast a crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, as traffic at the two remaining checkpoints would reach a critical level. Trucks can cross into Poland only through the Kukuryky (Kozlovichi) checkpoint, and passenger transport is only possible via the Terespol (Brest) checkpoint.
Lukashenka stated the day before the sentencing of Andrzej Poczobut that he expects new sanctions, so Minsk deliberately escalated confrontation with Poland on the eve of the introduction of the 10th package of EU restrictions against Russia and Belarus.
Against this background, Minsk continues to conduct rather strange negotiations, with the Vatican as a mediator with the West, to lobby for holding peace talks between Russia and Ukraine in Minsk. The Belarusian Ambassador to Russia, Dmitry Krutoy, met with the Apostolic Nuncio to the Russian Federation, Giovanni D’Aniello, to discuss maintaining peace and mutual understanding between countries and peoples. The Belarusian Ambassador mentioned the Pope’s September 2022 call in Kazakhstan to revive the “spirit of Helsinki” and strive to strengthen a stable and calm multipolar world. Krutoy noted the pontiff’s significant contribution to preserving peace and his focus on political dialogue and stressed that Belarus fully concurs with Pope Francis on these matters.
Almost simultaneously, details of the scandalous November 2022 visit to Belarus of Alternative for Germany (AfD) Bundestag deputy Petro Bystron appeared in the Western media. Bystron met with senior officials, including Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei (a week before he died), Andrei Savinykh, chairman of the House Standing Committee on International Affairs, the heads of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Belarusian Peace Foundation. During the visit, Bystron explored the possibility of Belarus acting as a “neutral peacemaker” regarding Ukraine and developing “bilateral relations between the German and Belarusian parliaments.”
Given preparations for a new Russian offensive, the Belarusian regime’s recent acts suggest that it is confident of Russian victory in one form or another and is preparing to act as a mediator to conclude the conflict on Moscow’s terms. Such fantastical ideas are not taken seriously in the West, except for some representatives of pro-Russian political forces, which further marginalises these initiatives.
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Situation in Belarus