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Poland Waives Visa Fees for Belarus Nationals


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, 20 Dec 2010

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, 20 Dec 2010

Poland will waive fees charged to Belarusian citizens for processing travel visas beginning next week.

The Polish Foreign Ministry described the move Wednesday as "an expression of solidarity with the people of Belarus" and pro-democracy movements active during Belarus' presidential elections last week.

In a statement Wednesday, the Polish ministry said it reserved the right to prevent Belarusian officials "responsible for organizing the recent wave of repression against civil society" from entering Polish territory.

Poland and a host of other Western nations have criticized the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for its violent post-election crackdown on opposition supporters and journalists.

Some 600 people, including several opposition presidential candidates and about 20 journalists were arrested after riot police broke up protests against the reelection of President Lukashenko.

According to Agence France Presse, the editor of the Belarusian independent weekly Nasha Niva said security police in Minsk raided the paper's offices Wednesday and carted off 12 computers, along with memory cards and disks.

Separately, the opposition website Charter 97 quotes a Justice Ministry statement warning that "certain [defense] lawyers" are guilty of "gross violations"of their professional code of ethics for commenting publicly on the crackdown and on the health conditions of their jailed clients.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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