"Bright future" for Poland and Belarus?

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has praised Polish-Belarusian relations, stating that "a bright future" awaits for bilateral relations between the two countries.

At a press conference in Minsk, Monday, Alexander Lukashenko said that "what Poland has done for Belarus is worth every penny," adding that "a bright future awaits for Polish-Belarusian relations."

"Poland has understood what Belarus is and why Belarus is needed by Poland," Lukashenko said, adding that "I am convinced that if Poland continues as it has done for the past three months then [:] there will be only positive effects of such co-operation."

Amid tensions following what some have called a sham election, Lukashenko reiterated his position by stating that "no matter how hard the opposition candidates would try to hit us head on, it just won't work."

The comment was among many others that were poised against ongoing demonstrations in Minsk, at which hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, with over a hundred charged by Monday evening.

Belarus "won't beg" for better relations with EU

At Monday's press conference, Lukashenko also paid attention to the need for co-operation between Minsk and Brussels, adding, however, that he "will not beg" for better relations with the EU.

The comment comes after Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski visited Minsk in November with his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle to push for better relations between Belarus and the EU.

"Poland, as a neighbour of Belarus and a member of the European Union, is interested in Belarus - a European nation, also upholding European values. For example, democracy and respect for national minorities," said Minister Sikorski back in November, with similar words echoed by Westerwelle.

Continuing clashes lead to more arrests

Police in the centre of Minsk have done battle against yet another demonstration, which took place Monday night.

According to the Interfax news agency, several dozen opposition youth activists descended on Minsk's Independence Square to protest against Lukashenko's re-election.

Witness accounts state that the moment protestors started unravelling their banners, two coaches full of OMON riot police immediately arrived at the scene. The special police units then started beating protestors, arresting as many as a dozen people, according to witnesses reports.

Head of Polish union released

Meanwhile, police have released Andrzej Poczobut, head of the Union of Poles in Belarus following Monday's demonstration. Talking to Polish Radio, he said that he was freed because he legally he is a journalist and holds press accreditation.

Poczobut added that jails in the Belarusian capital are full after the arrest of over 600 demonstrators after Sunday's elections.

Many of the protestors who were arrested on Sunday were handed prison sentences between 10-15 days or penalised with a fine, informed the "Fair Elections" human rights organisation.

The "Belaruskie Novosti" independent news portal informs that over 150 of the protestors have been charged, with four people being fined sums over 250 euro.

At least seven out of Lukashenko's nine election challengers were held in detention, including Vladimir Neklayev, who was arrested while recovering in hospital after being beaten on Sunday night by police, his wife said.

Neklayev's press officer, Yulia Rymashevskaya was handed a 13-day sentence, while his election manager Andrey Dzimitreu is currently being held in custody at the KGB jail in Minsk, Belaruskie Novosti states.

After interrogation, Ryhor Kastusiau and Dzimtry Wus, two presidential candidates were released, Monday evening.

US condemns "flawed" election

The White House called on Lukashenko to release the remaining candidates held in custody, Monday.

"We call for the immediate release of all presidential candidates and the hundreds of protesters who were detained on December 19 and 20. The United States cannot accept as legitimate the results of the presidential election announced by the Belarusian Central Election Commission December 20," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. (jb)


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