Polish Prime Minister Targets Belarus

WARSAW, Poland -- Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka phoned his counterparts in Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia on Thursday seeking to build a group that would step up pressure on Belarus, Belka's press service reported.

Polish Prime Minister Marek Belka

The parties discussed ways of "coordinating their actions" and "exchanging information" amid attempts to launch a radio station that would specifically target Belarus with critical news programs.

The talks suggest that Poland is leading a campaign to isolate authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka, an effort that some analysts say may eventually trigger a regime change there.

The developments underscore a growing regional confrontation between Belarus and Russia on the one hand and Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania and on the other hand. When news emerged about the discussions between Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia, Belarus reacted by accusing the group of a plot to isolate Russia from mainstream Europe.

"Belarus is a bridge to Europe and their idea is to block it in order to isolate Russia," Ivan Makushok, a spokesman for the State Secretary of the planned Russia-Belarus Union, said, according to Interfax.

The European Commission has recently approved a spending €138,000 euros to be channeled to Deutsche Welle to start radio broadcasts in the Belarussian language. The broadcasts are supposed to bridge an information gap in the increasingly state-controlled media of Belarus.

Although Belka's press service did not disclose details of the talks, analysts said the parties could have discussed positioning of radio transmitters to better cover the territory of Belarus.

Independent radio broadcasts, like Radio Free Europe, financed by Western governments were one of the key elements of the Cold War between the West and the former Soviet Union.

The broadcasts were scaled down after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and independent media outlets had emerged within the former Communist nations.

The developments come as Polish-Belarus relations have reached a low point. Last month, Warsaw recalled its ambassador from Mink in reaction to a crackdown on a Polish ethnic minority by authorities in Belarus. Belarus accused Poland of encouraging an effort to spearhead regime change to oust Lukashenka.

Belarus dismissed the plans to start radio broadcasts as "useless" and said the money could have been better spent "to aid developing nations."

"The EC is wasting money on a useless project," Ruslan Yesin, spokesman for the Belarussian Foreign Ministry, said. "We're not afraid."

Source: Ukrainian Journal