(Warsaw) The Polish prime minister on Tuesday accused the Russian president of “sponsoring” a wave of immigrants trying to enter Poland from Belarus, warning that this “hybrid” attack would destabilize the EU.
The allegation comes at a time when thousands of migrants are stranded in frozen weather on the Polish-Belarusian border, with troops on both sides raising fears of conflict.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko “carried out the latest attack, but its sponsor is in Moscow, and that sponsor is President Putin,” Mateusz Morawiecki told an emergency meeting of the Polish parliament.
“Immigrants from the Middle East are being flown to Belarus and serve as human shields to destabilize Poland and the European Union. Protecting Poland’s borders means protecting NATO and the eastern part of the European Union, ”he added.
For months, Europeans have accused Alexander Lukashenko of provoking the crisis by issuing visas to immigrants in retaliation for European sanctions imposed on his country for suppressing the opposition since the 2020 presidential election.
“This is part of an inhumane approach and the real thugs of the Lukashenko regime,” said Peter Stano, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels.
Belarus has denied the allegations and ruled that EU membership violates human rights by not allowing Polish immigrants to enter its territory.
President Lukashenko, a close ally of Moscow, insisted that his country would not “kneel” before the EU.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has blamed the arrival of immigrants on Western military “adventures” in the Middle East.
“As for the refugees going to the EU from Turkey, why did the EU fund to keep them in Turkish territory?” “, He added,” Why not help the Belarusians in the same way? ”
The crisis intensified on Monday when hundreds of migrants marched on the border in an attempt to cross into Poland, but were trapped in front of a large police and military establishment stationed by barbed wire and Warsaw.
Poland and Belarus said on Tuesday that 3,000 to 4,000 migrants, mostly Kurds from the Middle East, were now in a makeshift border camp opposite the Polish village of Kuznica.
Access to the site is restricted to journalists, but images released by authorities in both countries show hundreds of men, women and children trying to warm themselves around the fire in tents or on the ground at temperatures close to zero.
Poland has said it will use immigrants as weapons, insisting that Belarus will not open its borders.
“Today the stability and security of the entire EU is in jeopardy,” Moraviki said on Twitter.
“This mixed attack of the Lukashenko regime is targeting all of us. We will not be afraid and will keep the peace in Europe with our NATO and EU partners. ”
In Lithuania, which shares a border with Belarus, parliament on Tuesday passed a law imposing a state of emergency on the border for fear of migrants stranded on the Polish border.
Attempts to cross illegally from Belarus have increased in Lithuania in recent days.
The concentration of troops on the border has provoked reactions from both sides.
The Belarusian Ministry of Defense says it has sent 10,000 troops to the Polish border without first informing authorities in Minsk, condemning the violation of general security agreements.
Meanwhile, the Polish Ministry of Defense tweeted video footage of what it said was a “large group of Belarusian officials” near the immigration camp.
The European Union (EU) has called for new sanctions against Belarus in addition to those already imposed following the crackdown on the opposition by Alexander Lukashenko.
France has said it is ready to investigate “strengthening measures” against the regime and “against the people and organizations involved in the abduction of these men.” The matter will be on the agenda of the next meeting of the twenty-seven foreign ministers to be held on Monday.
Germany supports new EU sanctions against Belarus, German Foreign Minister Heiko Moss said on Wednesday, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of “dishonest” exploitation of migrants on the Polish border.
“We will allow anyone to take part in the targeted smuggling of migrants,” Mass said in a statement, adding that the EU would “work to expand and strengthen”. […] Sanctions against the Lukashenko regime. ”
European diplomats in Brussels told the AFP that the EU was already working to extend the sanctions.
On Wednesday, European Council President Charles Michael is due to travel to Warsaw to discuss the “EU border crisis”.
Some immigrants to Poland told AFP last month that they had been stranded in the jungle for a week, while Belarus refused to allow them to return to Minsk and then back to their homeland, while Poland did not allow them to enter or seek asylum.
According to Minsk border guards, migrants stranded at the border are in a “very bad” physical and psychological state, especially with no access to water and food and no means of washing themselves.
“The situation is exacerbated by the high number of pregnant women and infants among the refugees, who have to spend the night on the ground in the freezer,” they said.