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Tensions simmer as Poland calls Lukashenko’s words unacceptable, Belarus puts half of army combat ready

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Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s comments that Warsaw may be plotting to seize part of the country if its political crisis worsened are unacceptable, Krzysztof Szczerski, an aide to Poland’s president, said on Friday.

Relations between Warsaw and Minsk have become tense in recent days following Lukashenko’s suggestions quoted by state news agency Belta that Poland planned to take over the Grodno region bordering Poland and Lithuania if Belarus falls apart.

On Thursday, Poland summoned the Belarus ambassador to protest the “unfounded accusations”.

“These comments are unacceptable. No one has such intentions in Poland and this is propaganda,” Szczerski told public radio, adding the situation in Belarus is evolving in a negative direction.

Belarus has been in turmoil since a presidential election on Aug. 9 that the opposition said was rigged to extend Lukashenko’s 26-year rule. Security forces have beaten and arrested protesters to stamp out mass demonstrations and strikes.

Szczerski also said that following Russia’s latest signals that it is prepared to use force if needed in Belarus, the key question now is how Western Europe reacts.

At the same time, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Friday ordered half of the country’s the army enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West, the Belta state news agency reported.

“(NATO) have launched exercises right by our borders. What am I supposed to do? I also rolled out some divisions, put half the army into combat preparedness mode. That’s not cheap,” Lukashenko was cited as saying.

The West has so far acted cautiously, wary of provoking a Russian military response as took place in Ukraine in 2014.

“If the West does not have a ‘we win, they lose’ approach to Russia, then Putin will be step by step expanding the Brezhnev Doctrine,” Szczerski said, referring to Soviet foreign policy under which Moscow intervened in the domestic affairs of its East Bloc satellites when developments displeased it.

Warsaw is watching events in neighbouring Belarus closely, concerned over perceived resurgent aggressiveness by Russia in the region. It also sees itself as a key party in the West’s attempts to support the Belarusian people.

News agency Belta reported on Thursday evening that the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Polish Charge d’Affaires to protest against Poland’s attempts to interfere in Belarus’ domestic affairs.

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