Polish PM pledges support for Belarusians after ally’s remark
WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Polish prime minister pledged on Monday that the government would still support the Belarusian people fighting for democracy, after a senior official in his ruling party suggested that Polish solidarity could be conditional.
Notoriously quarrelsome Polish political factions have long been united in their support for those in Belarus who oppose the dictatorship of longtime President Alexander Lukanchenko. For Poland, a nation engulfed and controlled by Moscow for long periods of its history, a united front against authoritarianism in the East was seen as virtuous, transcending all internal divisions.
That is, until one of the main presidential candidates in last year’s elections in Belarus, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, dares to meet last week with the mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowski, who belongs to a centrist opposition party for a long time at odds with the ruling Right and Justice party.
Ryszard Terlecki, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and senior member of the ruling Law and Justice party, was angry and tweeted on Friday: “If Tsikhanouskaya wants to promote the undemocratic opposition in Poland and speak at the Trzaskowski meeting, let her seek help in Moscow, and support a Belarusian opposition that is not on the side of our adversaries.
The comments outraged many Poles and the opposition demanded his resignation. Some have pointed out that Tsikhanouskaya’s husband, an opposition activist, remains imprisoned by the Belarusian regime, which is supported by the Kremlin.
“Ryszard Terlecki should not only lose his post, but he should disappear from public life,” said Marek Migalski, political analyst and professor at the University of Silesia.
“She was probably the one who, although we are not sure, won the presidential election,” he told TVN24. This type of contemptuous tone is disastrous for the interests of the Polish state.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, questioned Monday on the subject, 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 declared that “since the very beginning of the protests in August last year, we are with Belarusians who are fighting for freedom, fighting for the rule of law, fighting for democracy”. He insisted that the support continue.
Polish efforts to help Belarus are numerous. The government funds Belsat, a Warsaw-based television station that broadcasts independent news in Belarus. He also called for international pressure on the Lukashenko regime, while Poland has hosted many Belarusian activists and students who are now living in exile and studying in Warsaw and other Polish cities.
Last week, the government also revealed that it had brought to safety in Poland three Belarusians belonging to the Polish ethnic minority who had been imprisoned in Belarus.
Last week, during his visit to Warsaw, Tsikhanouskaya expressed his gratitude to President Andrzej Duda, a government ally, and Trzaskowski, for the help Belarusians were receiving from various authorities in Poland.