Two Poles ‘most likely’ detained in Minsk: Polish MP

Michał Szczerba, a Polish MP of the Civic Platform party, reported that two Polish students were “most likely” detained in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, during the protests that erupted in the country after the presidential elections.

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“Unfortunately, everything indicates that among detainees in Minsk are two Polish students. Their families got in touch with me because they lost contact with them on Tuesday evening. I was assured by the ambassador that a consul is looking for them,” Mr Szczerba tweeted.

He was in Minsk, after being invited by the Belarusian opposition to observe the electoral day and the events afterward. The Polish MP also met Ales Bialiatski, the director of the Human Rights Centre “Spring” who notified him of the scale of repression of participants in pre- and post-electoral rallies.

“I have returned from Minsk. These were beautiful but dramatic days. I was an observer and a witness. Belarus will not be the same anymore. I obliged myself to share what I saw and heard. The Belarusian society has awoken and will not be humiliated anymore,” Mr Szczerba wrote on social media.

Paweł Jabłoński, the deputy Foreign Minister said that Polish diplomats are aware of the situation and working on a solution. “I was also in contact with MP Szczerba, he passed on those reports to me. We will act, there will be help, our diplomats are on the scene, we will not leave them behind” he told Polish public radio.

He added that the Polish Foreign Ministry is constantly monitoring the situation in Belarus and declared that Poland will not close itself to Belarusians and will support them if they are oppressed. “We will be ready to help them,” he assured.

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Former presidents call

Bronisław Komorowski, Aleksander Kwaśniewski and Lech Wałęsa, the former presidents of Poland together called for a cease in the use of force by authorities in Minsk.

“We call on Belarusian authorities to stop using force against peaceful gatherings and further escalation of violence from the side of law enforcement,” they wrote.

“Protests with thousands of participants in dozens of Belarusian cities are the expression of conviction of the significant part of Belarusian society that the elections were not fair and the result was rigged,” the former presidents added.

“All doubts about the fairness of the elections should be explained by the public authorities, in cooperation with the international institutions, in a satisfactory way for the Belarusian society. The global community has to show real determination and solidarity in defence of democracy, human and civil rights in Belarus,” they emphasised.

The former presidents also expressed the support for the idea of the Polish authorities about calling the summit of the European Council about Belarus, “as the sign of political involvement and solidarity of democratic Europe with the Belarusian society.”

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Protests go on

Unrest in Minsk took place for a third night in a row on Tuesday as security forces fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse thousands of protesters.

A witness quoted by the Reuters agency reported seeing security forces detaining dozens of people and beating protesters in the street. Another witness saw security forces smashing car windows and dragging some people out of vehicles to attack them. A third saw at least two news photographers being attacked and their cameras damaged. Car horns blared in solidarity with the opposition, and people marched, clapped, and shouted "go away".

President Lukashenko has compared the protesters to “criminal gangs” and “dangerous revolutionaries” with shadowy foreign backers. State media on Tuesday showed detained young men with their hands behind their backs, calling them “Russian provocateurs”.

Clashes erupted following the announcement of presidential exit polls, according to which Alexandr Lukashenko was re-elected president having allegedly acquired nearly 80 percent of votes in the elections of August 9. His main rival Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya garnered around seven percent.

Ms Tsikhanouskaya left the country after she filed a complaint about the process of the election. She read a statement calling to end protests, but appeared that she had been forced into doing so. On Tuesday morning, Linas Linkevičius, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister announced that she is safe in Lithuania.