Poland ends visa fees for Belarusians in 'Solidarity' gesture

As of January 2011, Poland will stop charging the 20 euro visa fee currently demanded from Belarusian citizens when entering the country, in a move the government says is an "expression of Solidarity" with ordinary Belarusians.

The Foreign Ministry says this move is "an expression of solidarity with and respect for the Belarusian people, who sent a strong signal of support for democratic movements during the December 19 presidential election."

"We want to help our eastern neighbours to strengthen their European identity through more numerous contacts with Poles and other citizens of the European Union," reads a statement issued by the ministry.

Meanwhile, the lawyer of 64 year-old opposition leader Vladimir Nikolayev - who was badly beaten at a demonstration after the elections - said that the his client, who is currently in jail, took a turn for the worse on Wednesday and "his life may be in danger"

Hunger strike

Another presidential candidate also in prison, Nikolai Satkevich, has gone on hunger strike, according to his lawyer.

Poland's foreign ministry says it is compiling a list of persons who are not welcome in Poland, including persons responsible for the repression of Belarusian opposition activists in demonstrations following the presidential election, which Belarus's election commission declared was won by incumbent Alexander Lukashenko.

Opposition leaders - many of whom were arrested during a brutal police crackdown - alongside the US, EU, Poland and others have derided the result after election observers declared vote counting "flawed".

Seven presidential candidates have been formally charged with organizing a mass public disturbance and face up to 15 years in prison. (pg/kk)


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