WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will close its eastern border to freight vehicles registered in Belarus and Russia until further notice, according to a draft regulation published on Friday by the interior ministry.
The move comes as a Belarusian court upheld an earlier decision to sentence a journalist of Polish origin to eight years in prison, stoking tensions between the two countries that have been running high in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the justification of the regulation, the decision was necessary to “ensure public safety”.
While the regulation concerning the border did not mention the case of jailed journalist Andrzej Poczobut, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said on Twitter that he would add several hundred Belarusian officials to sanctions lists as a result of the verdict, which he labelled “draconian”.
Poland had previously closed some border crossings with Belarus following Poczobut’s imprisonment and the expulsion of Polish diplomats by Minsk.
The Belarusian foreign ministry could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
Belarus has previously said that Polish decisions to close border crossings were irrational and dangerous, accusing Warsaw of causing long delays and failing to implement bilateral agreements.
Poland has been an important refuge for opponents of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, and Warsaw has become one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Belarus’ main ally Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Poland also accuses Belarus of artificially creating a migrant crisis on the border by flying in people from the Middle East and Africa and attempting to push them across the frontier.
While the numbers of migrants crossing are lower than at the peak of the crisis in 2021, the Polish Border guard reports dozens of attempts to enter Poland illegally daily.
(Reporting by Alan Charlish and Anna Koper; Editing by Hugh Lawson)