Poland expels Belarus diplomat in retaliatory move

February 23, 2023 GMT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that a Belarusian diplomat was asked to leave the country amid swelling tensions over the imprisonment of a prominent ethnic Polish journalist in Belarus.

The defense attache at the Embassy of Belarus was to leave Warsaw very soon, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina told Polish new agency PAP. Jasina said the action was taken in response to Belarus recently expelling a Polish border guard liaison officer and two employees of Poland’s consulate in Grodno.

Bilateral relations between the neighboring nations were already strained by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s support for Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine. The ties between Belarus and Poland took a new hit this month when a court in Minsk handed an eight-year prison term to Andrzej Poczobut, a well-known correspondent for Polish media.

The court convicted Poczobut, 49, on Feb. 8 of harming Belarus’ national security and “inciting discord.” In 2020, Poczobut reported extensively on massive anti-government protests that broke out following Lukashenko’s disputed reelection in a vote that the opposition and Western countries regard as fraudulent.

The journalist has been in custody since his detention in March 2021. Poland reacted to Poczobut’s sentencing by suspending traffic at the country’s main border crossing with Belarus, in Bobrowniki.