Poland Will Support Belarusians Efforts for Democracy, Prime Minister Says

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Monday that the country's government would always back Belarusian people fighting for democracy. His comments came after a senior affiliate of his ruling party implied Poland's support was contingent on certain conditions, the Associated Press reported.

Poland's various political factions have long found common ground when it comes to backing Belarusian opposition to authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in office since 1994. However, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who is part of a centrist opposition party, met last week with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a Belarusian candidate in last year's elections.

Ryszard Terlecki, a deputy parliament speaker and prominent member of the non-opposition Law and Justice party, voiced his displeasure with Trzaskowski's meeting on Twitter on Friday.

"If Tsikhanouskaya wants to promote the anti-democratic opposition in Poland and speak at Trzaskowski's meeting, let her seek help in Moscow, and let us support a Belarusian opposition that is not on the side of our opponents," he tweeted.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Belarus Protesters
Belarusians hold historical Belarus opposition flags during a protest at the Polish-Belarusian border crossing on June 5, 2021, in Bobrowniki, Poland. Belarusian dissidents and Polish supporters of their cause protested at the border crossing to demand the European Union and other Western powers to impose economic sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after dissidents were detained on a grounded Ryan Air flight and most Belarusian citizens are now banned from leaving the country. Omar Marques/Getty Images

The comments outraged many Poles and there were demands by the opposition for him to resign. Some pointed out that Tsikhanouskaya's husband, an opposition activist, remains imprisoned by the regime in Belarus, which is supported by the Kremlin.

"Ryszard Terlecki should not only lose his position, but he should disappear from public life," said Marek Migalski, a political analyst and professor at the University of Silesia.

"It is probably she who, although we do not know for sure, won the presidential election," he told TVN24. This type of contemptuous tone is disastrous for the interests of the Polish state."

Morawiecki, asked about the matter on Monday, began by defending Terlecki's record. He recalled that Terlecki was active in the struggle for democracy in Poland in the 1970s and 1980s, and was arrested by the communist authorities.

Morawiecki then said that "from the very beginning of the protests in August last year we are with the Belarusians who are fighting for freedom, fighting for the rule of law, fighting for democracy." He insisted that support would continue.

Polish efforts to help Belarus are many. The government funds Belsat, a Warsaw-based TV station that broadcasts independent news into Belarus. It has also sought international pressure on Lukashenko's regime, while Poland has welcomed many Belarusian activists and students who now live in exile and study in Warsaw and other Polish cities.

Last week, the government also revealed that it had brought three Belarusians belonging to the ethnic Polish minority who had been imprisoned in Belarus to safety in Poland.

Last week during her visit to Warsaw, Tsikhanouskaya voiced gratitude to President Andrzej Duda, who is allied with the government, and Trzaskowski, for the help Belarusians were receiving from different authorities in Poland.

Poland Prime Minister
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki speaks with the media as he departs an EU summit in Brussels on May 25, 2021. Morawiecki is vowing that the government will always support the Belarusian people struggling for democracy. Francisco Seco/AP Photo