The European Union accused Belarus on Monday of encouraging migrants to flood into neighboring countries in the hopes of creating a massive confrontation at the border, Reuters reported.
Recent video clips showed hundreds of migrants making their way towards the Polish border, with some attempting to get through the border fence using spades and other tools, Reuters reported.
One video shared by Belarusian blog service NEXTA showcased migrants walking along a highway wearing winter clothes and carrying rucksacks, Reuters reported. Another video showed migrants moving towards the border while being escorted by armed men in military uniforms.
“Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio, NBC News reported. “According to media reports, they are preparing a major provocation near Kuznica Bialostocka, that there will be an attempt at a mass border crossing.”
Polish authorities said the nation withstood early attempts to cross the border and deployed additional troops to the border, and Lithuania announced that on top of sending troops, it may introduce a state of emergency in the area, Reuters reported. One fellow Baltic country, Latvia, called the situation “alarming.”
The EU asserted that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is encouraging the illegal border-crossing attempts in retaliation for Western sanctions on his government due to human rights violations, Reuters reported. Lukashenko denied being responsible for the crisis, pointing his finger at the West and its treatment of migrants.
“Belarus’ regime escalates the border crisis – migrants are pushed to EU border by armed men,” tweeted exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. “The migrant smuggling, violence & ill-treatment must stop.”
“Lukashenko’s regime is putting the lives and health of migrants at risk, using them to escalate the border crisis and provoke Poland,” Bix Aliu, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Warsaw, told Reuters.
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