Poland to expel Belarus defence attache, agency reports

Polish PM Morawiecki visits the construction site of a barrier at the border between Poland and Belarus

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is to expel the defence attache of Belarus, the Polish Press Agency reported on Thursday, citing a foreign ministry spokesman.

Last Friday, Belarus ordered the expulsion of three Polish diplomats, including a border guard liaison officer, in response to Poland’s closure of one of two truck border crossings.

Poland has been an important refuge for opponents of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, and is a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Belarus' main ally Russia invaded in February 2022.

Mariusz Kaminski, head of the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration announced the closure of the Bobrowniki border crossing on Feb. 9 after a Belarusian court sentenced Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian journalist and activist of the independent Union of Poles of Belarus, to eight years in a penal colony on charges of instigating hatred against religious and national groups and rehabilitating Nazism.

Poczobut was arrested in March 2021 and has since remained in prison. The European Parliament and human rights groups have described him as a political prisoner.

On Feb. 17 the Belarus foreign ministry introduced new limitations for Polish freight to cross only the Polish-Belarusian border and can no longer use Belarus’ border crossings with Latvia and Lithuania.

Earlier on Thursday, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter that Poland is to place additional defence enforcements, including anti-tank barriers, at the border with Belarus and Russia as an element of "defence strategy and deterrence".

(Reporting by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska; editing by Grant McCool)