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Minsk Calls Attempted Polish Visit 'Provocation'

(RFE/RL) August 16, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Belarus's Foreign Ministry says that Polish officials carried out "a deliberate provocation" by trying to cross into Belarus to attend a celebration, RFE/RL's Belarusian Service reported.

Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk and the vice president of the Polish senate, Kryzsztof Putra, were among the officials who were denied entry by Belarusian border guards on August 15. They had planned to attend a Polish Army Day celebration in the Belarusian city of Grodno, home to many ethnic Poles and part of Poland before World War II.

A Belarusian government spokeswoman, Maria Vanshina, said in a statement that the Polish delegation was warned in advance that they would not be able to cross the border. Belarus's security service said that the Polish officials were seeking to provoke an incident to win publicity ahead of early elections in Poland expected in the coming months.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said Minsk's decision to turn away the officials was politically motivated.

Relations between the two countries have at times grown tense over Belarus's treatment of its 400,000-strong ethnic Polish minority, whom Minsk has accused of fomenting dissent.

(Reuters, AFP)

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