Poland Outraged by Belarus Election

By Marcin Sobczyk

Polish leaders Monday joined international observers, including the EU and the U.S., condemning violence in Belarus that followed the declaration of Alexander Lukashenko's fourth presidential election victory, in a poll that the opposition alleges was rigged.

"The foreign ministry condemns mass beatings and detainments of demonstrators on the streets of Minsk. The brutality of security forces is unacceptable," Poland's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Cases of severe beatings of opposition presidential candidates : raise particular concern. We call for the violence to stop, for those detained to be released immediately, and for cases of beatings of demonstrators, politicians and journalist, including foreign ones, to be explained."

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said the European Union should "come up with a common strategy for Belarus." Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has earlier led an effort to convince the Belarussian leader to respect the rules of democracy during the election campaign, promising cooperation if that happens. Part of Poland's grand plan for its eastern neighbor Belarus is to make sure the country stays independent-formally and otherwise-from Russia, Poland's historic enemy. A former Soviet republic, Belarus is one of several countries in an eastern European belt that separates Poland and mainland Russia.

In September, the EU extended a visa ban on top Belarussian officials, introduced after the 2006 presidential election that the EU considered flawed. But in 2008 the EU approved an exemption from the ban, allowing several dozen officials, including Mr. Lukashenko, to travel to the EU.

The Belarussian president in 2009 traveled to Rome and the Vatican City, where he met Pope Benedict XVI. He may soon be once again declared an unwelcome guest.


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