Poland to close Belarus border crossing until further notice, Minsk unhappy
WARSAW (Reuters) -Poland will close a key border crossing with Belarus until further notice, the Polish interior minister said on Thursday, as relations between Warsaw and Minsk sink to new lows.
The already tense ties between Poland and Belarus were further strained on Wednesday when a journalist of Polish origin was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Belarusian court in a trial Warsaw says was politically motivated.
“Due to the important interest of state security, I decided to suspend until further notice from 1200 on Feb. 10 this year traffic at the Polish-Belarusian border crossing in Bobrowniki,” Mariusz Kaminski wrote on Twitter.
Bobrowniki, more than 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Warsaw, is one of the main crossing points between Poland and Belarus.
Anton Bychkovsky, a spokesman for the Belarus state border service, said the move was unwarranted and could cause the remaining crossings to become overloaded, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
Bychkovsky told the Belarus STV channel that only two of the six main border posts would be operational, which he said would hurt truckers and citizens.
“The Belarusian side sees no objective reasons for taking such a decision given that there is no threat from the territory of Belarus,” TASS quoted him as saying.
Kaminski also said that as a result of the jailing of journalist Andrzej Poczobut he would apply for further people connected with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to be added to sanctions lists.
The Polish charge d’affaires in Minsk was summoned to the Belarusian foreign ministry, the Polish foreign ministry’s spokesman said on Thursday.
Poland has become a key refuge for opponents of Lukashenko and Warsaw has become one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies since Belarusian ally Russia invaded the country in February last year.
Russia used Belarus as a staging post for its ultimately abortive advance on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
In 2021, Poland and the European Union said Belarus had engineered a migrant crisis on its borders, an accusation Minsk denies. More recently, Poland has condemned the vandalism of Polish graves in Belarus.
Thousands of people of Polish origin live in Belarus given that the west of the country was Polish territory until borders were redrawn after World War Two.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish, Pawel Florkiewicz, Marek Strzelecki and David Ljunggren; editing by Nick Macfie and Mark Heinrich)