03:34 GMT +3 hours25 November 2014
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Poland Denies Funding Belarus Opposition

World
(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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Poland does not finance the Belarusian opposition, Polish Ambassador to Belarus Leszek Sherepka said on Wednesday.

MINSK, November 14 (RIA Novosti) - Poland does not finance the Belarusian opposition, Polish Ambassador to Belarus Leszek Sherepka said on Wednesday.

“We are not in the business of funding the Belarusian opposition. We only help civil society, and these are different notions,” he said at a news conference in Minsk.

The Polish Foreign Ministry sees no problem with helping civil society in Belarus, he said, adding that there is a reason why information about Polish grants for Belarusian projects is confidential.

“Unfortunately, your special services use that information to fight civil society, and we have to protect it,” the envoy said, adding that disclosure could result in some civil society activists being imprisoned.

The Belarusian Christian Democratic Party (BCDP) said on Tuesday one of its activists was detained and charged with treason.

BCDP activist Andrei Gaidukov, 22, was detained in Vitebsk and immediately sent to a KGB pretrial detention center in Minsk. Another party activist, Ilya Bogdanov, was also detained but released after pledging not to leave the city.

The high treason charge (Article 356) provides for up to 15 years in prison.

Belarus is currently the target of EU sanctions over human rights abuses, lack of legitimacy and failure to respect democratic principles in the country. Under the sanctions, which the EU extended for another year in mid-October, some 240 Belarusian officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, and 32 companies are currently subject to travel bans and asset freezes within the EU.

The West accuses the Belarusian authorities of persecuting the political opposition and denying basic rights and freedoms, in particular freedom of expression.

The EU was also critical of the September parliamentary elections in Belarus, in which all 110 seats went to pro-Lukashenko candidates. Brussels said the elections failed to meet international democratic standards.

Belarus has been subject to EU sanctions since 1996, two years after Lukashenko became president, though they were temporarily suspended in 1999 and 2008.

Lukashenko maintains that pressure on Minsk is pointless and said he hopes the European Union will try to regain its credibility as a serious partner and a good neighbor.