Poland reports clashes overnight as migrants attempt new border violation

Migrants stranded inside Belarus threw rocks and branches at Polish border guards and used logs to try to tear down a barbed wire fence overnight in further attempts to enter the European Union, authorities in Warsaw said on Thursday.

The crisis has sparked a new confrontation between the West and Russia, which sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace on Wednesday in a show of support for its ally. Belarus said the planes held drills for a second day on Thursday.

The Kremlin said Russia had nothing to do with the tensions on the border and suggested that the presence of heavily armed people on both sides, an apparent reference to the Belarusian and Polish border guards, was cause for concern. The prospect of sanctions on Belarus is a “crazy idea,” he said.

Trapped between two borders, the migrants have endured freezing weather in makeshift camps. Poland has reported at least seven migrant deaths during the months of crisis and other migrants have expressed fear of dying.

The migrants’ belongings are displayed in the forest after they left the temporary overnight camp during the migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border near Hajnowka, Poland, on November 10, 2021 (credit: REUTERS / KACPER PEMPEL).

None of the 150 migrants gathered near the town of Bialowieza made it across the border, border guard service spokeswoman Ewelina Szczepanska told Reuters, saying there had been 468 attempted illegal crossings on Wednesday.

Ukrainian border guards, police and national guard will conduct drills on the border with Belarus on Thursday with the aim of protecting the country from possible attempts by immigrants to cross the border, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said.

“To counteract the possible crisis with immigrants, we will involve the five structures of the Interior Ministry without exception,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy was quoted as saying in the statement.

While not a member of the European Union, Ukraine fears becoming another frontier in the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Neighboring EU state Lithuania, which like Poland has imposed a state of emergency on the border, also reported new attempts to cross the border.

In a joint statement on Thursday, the defense ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said they saw the crisis as “very alarming and unequivocally condemn the deliberate escalation of the ongoing hybrid attack by the Belarusian regime, which poses serious security threats. European “. . “

“Large groups of people are being rounded up and transported to the border area, where they are then forced to cross the border illegally. This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spill over into the military domain,” they said.

The bloc accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of fabricating the migration crisis in revenge for previous sanctions after the veteran leader unleashed a violent crackdown on massive street protests against his government in 2020.

Russian-flagged airline Aeroflot AFLT.MM on Thursday denied any involvement in organizing the mass transport of migrants to Belarus, after its actions fell on a news report that it could face EU sanctions over the border crisis. between Belarus and Poland.

Belarusian authorities said more than 2,000 migrants were at the border. Lukashenko and Russia have blamed the EU for the migration crisis and said the EU was not living up to its own humanitarian values ​​by preventing migrants from crossing.

Large groups of people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere began flying to Minsk this spring. They then travel to the border with Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, members of the EU, by taxi, bus or cars provided by human smugglers and try to cross.

Polish authorities say the number of flights to Belarus from the Middle East has increased dramatically in recent months, and the Polish prime minister called on the EU to take action to stop the flow of airlines carrying migrants to Minsk.

Most of the migrants use travel agencies throughout the Middle East that partner with Belarusian companies to book tour packages that generally include visa, flight, and accommodation.

The price of the entire trip varies and can go up to $ 14,000. In October, Minsk restricted the number of travel agencies in Belarus authorized to deliver tourist invitations, and both smugglers and agencies reported an increase in prices.


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