Belarus Expels Two More Polish Diplomats As Dispute Over WWII Commemoration Escalates

Belarus expelled two more on Polish diplomats on March 11 after Poland expelled a Belarus diplomat in a tit-for-tat spat that erupted after a World War II commemoration.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said in a statement it had expelled the two diplomats “in connection with the excessive, asymmetric, and destructive response of Poland.”

The two senior staff members of the Polish Consulate in the city of Hrodno were given 48 hours to leave the country, the ministry said.

The unofficial commemorative event at the heart of the dispute took place February 28 in the southwestern Belarusian city of Brest in honor of so-called “cursed soldiers,” Polish fighters who initially fought against Nazi occupation and later turned against Soviet occupiers. The soldiers often acted violently against non-Poles, especially Belarusians.

Minsk on March 9 announced it was expelling the Polish consul, Jerzy Timofejuk, saying he had taken part in the ceremony, prompting Warsaw to also declare a Belarusian diplomat “persona non grata” the next day.

Belarus then responded with the expulsion of the two Polish diplomats on March 11.

Poland’s deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said that Warsaw reserved its right to an “adequate response” to the move.

Belarusian prosecutors said on March 10 they had opened a criminal case into the Brest event for actions aimed at inciting national, religious enmity, and hate based on nationality, religion, language, as well as actions aimed at glorifying Nazism.

The Foreign Ministry in Minsk said celebrating “war criminals and the justification of genocide against the Belarusian people” was unacceptable.

The Day of Cursed Soldiers has been commemorated in Poland every March 1 since 2011.

Relations between Belarus and Poland have been strained recently after protests broke out against the disputed reelection in August of Belarus strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Poland has sheltered Belarusian activists that have fled across the border to escape a crackdown on the opposition.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Belarus Service, BelTA, AFP, and dpa
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