Moscow-allied Belarus said Friday, Feb. 17, it was limiting access for Polish trucks on its territory and announced the expulsion of a liaison officer following Warsaw's decision to close a border crossing.

The foreign ministry in Minsk summoned Poland's charge d'affaires to condemn Warsaw's decision to close one of its three existing border crossings with Belarus as "unilateral" and "inhumane".

In response, Polish goods trucks will now only be able to enter and leave Belarus through crossings on their common border, and no longer via third countries Lithuania and Latvia.

"All responsibility for the deterioration of the conditions for the operations of their carriers lies with the initiator of the restrictive measures, that is the current government of Poland," said a ministry statement.

Minsk also said it would reduce staffing at Poland's consulate in Grodno to match staff numbers in the Belarusian consulate in Polish Bialystok, evoking a future expulsion of diplomats.

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"The Belarusian side also does not see the point of the continued presence on its territory of a liaison officer for the Polish Border Guard," the ministry said.

They reserved to right "to take more serious retaliatory steps", the statement added.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski later tweeted: "If Belarusian authorities go ahead and implement the announced restrictions against Polish carriers, Poland will respond in kind regarding Belarusian carriers."

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The news is confirmed by the Smolensk region governor, who said he is en route to the site of the incident; preliminary reports said at least one woman died on the scene.

Poland said last week it was closing the Bobrowniki border checkpoint for reasons of "state security", as tensions soared between the two neighbours.

That decision came a day after a Belarusian court sentenced Polish-Belarusian journalist Andrzej Poczobut to eight years in prison over his critical reporting on the Minsk regime.

President Alexander Lukashenko hosted a rare meeting with the foreign press Thursday, during which AFP asked him about Poczobut's case as well as others who are in prison after criticizing the longtime leader.

"If you are guilty, then you will serve," he said, denying the existence of political prisoners in his country.

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"There is no politics in this at all."

Lukashenko suppressed unprecedented protests against his rule in 2020.

Belarus is a close ally of Russia and allowed Moscow's troops to launch their offensive in Ukraine via Belarusian territory.

Poland is a key backer of Kyiv.

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