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Polish judge asks for asylum in Belarus, Warsaw ‘in shock’

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Belarus said Monday that a Polish judge crossed into the Moscow-allied state, with whom Poland has tense relations, to seek political asylum, leaving Warsaw “in shock”.

Relations between Warsaw and Minsk have been strained for years — over a political crackdown in Belarus and a migration crisis — but have sunk to new lows since President Alexander Lukashenko backed the Kremlin’s Ukraine offensive.

State news agency Belta said Polish judge Tomasz Szmydt had asked autocrat Lukashenko for asylum.

“This is an act of protest against Poland’s politics towards Belarus and Russia,” Szmydt said at a press conference in Belarus, according to Belta.

Szmydt was close to the former governing right-wing Law and Justice party that lost power to the current pro-EU coalition late last year.

“Returning to Poland would mean arrest under a fabricated case of spying,” he said in a video published by Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“It was hard before but now it is a case of life or death.”

Officials in Warsaw did not hide their surprise.

“I am honestly in shock,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters.

“We’ve had a traitor before, I think it is a similar case.”

Sikorski was referring to Polish soldier Emil Czeczko, who in 2021 defected to Belarus. Minsk authorities said he was found dead in March 2022.

Polish Defence Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said he was awaiting a report on Szmydt’s case and that Warsaw would investigate his previous activity in the NATO country.

“If someone chooses Belarus, then in what interests did he work for years in Poland, in whose name?” Kosiniak-Kamysz said.

“It is not a natural direction to look for protection where Alexander Lukashenko rules.”

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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