Polish forces on the border with Belarus used water cannons and tear gas on Tuesday against stone-throwing migrants, as Warsaw accused Belarusian authorities of giving smoke grenades and other weapons to those trying to cross the border.
The events marked an escalation in the crisis at the EU’s eastern border, where the West accused President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as pawns to destabilize the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for sanctions on his authoritarian regime Is. Belarus refused to organize the crisis.
The Poland Border Guard Agency posted a video on Twitter showing a group of migrants spraying water across the border, and the Defense Ministry also said tear gas had been used against the attackers. Polish officials said nine of its forces were wounded – seven policemen, a soldier and a female border guard.
Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said about 2,000 migrants were on the border in makeshift camps in cold weather, but only about 100 were believed to have been able to attack Polish forces at the crossing near Kuznica. The crossing is closed since last one week.
Police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka later said the migrants had been “pacified”. He also said that the attackers were given smoke grenades by Belarusians and pelted stones at Polish police, with Belarusian services monitoring incidents using drones. The Polish Defense Ministry also said that Belarus gave flash-bang grenades to some migrants.
Belarus’ State Border Guard Committee and the Foreign Ministry said they would investigate Poland’s actions.
“These are considered violent actions against people who are on the territory of another country,” Belarus’ state news agency Belta quoted committee spokesman Anton Bychkovsky as saying.
Lukashenko again on Tuesday dismissed allegations of engineering the crisis and said his government deported some 5,000 illegal migrants from Belarus this fall.
On Tuesday, Lukashenko said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed on Monday over the phone that neither Belarus nor the European Union would benefit from an escalation of the crisis. He said he proposed a resolution but did not elaborate, adding that Merkel was discussing it with other EU leaders.
Some migrants have children with them at the border in their desperate bid to reach the European Union. Most are fleeing conflict, poverty and instability in the Middle East and elsewhere. At least 11 deaths have been reported in recent weeks as the weather has turned colder, and they have been mired in dense forest between the armies of the two countries.
While some of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have managed to enter the EU before fortifying their borders, the route now appears to be much more difficult.
Poland has taken a tough stand against illegal entry of migrants, fortified borders with riot police and soldiers, rolled up razor wire, and plans to build a tall steel barrier. The Polish approach has largely received approval from other EU countries, which seek to prevent another wave of migration.
But Poland has also been criticized by human rights groups and others for pushing migrants back into Belarus and not allowing them to apply for asylum.
UN spokesman Farhan Haq said, “It is very clear that if you look at what is happening to this group of people – that they have not been respected with their own specific concerns, their special dignity and their rights.” Is.” “And that’s why we want them to be able to speak and be heard for themselves. We don’t want these people to be instrumental and used as pawns in disputes involving countries.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Poland’s action “violates all conceivable norms of international humanitarian law and other agreements of the international community.”
Warsaw says Moscow bears some responsibility for the border crisis, given its strong support for Belarus. The Russian government has denied responsibility.
It has become difficult to independently verify incidents at the border. Poland has imposed a state of emergency, which bans journalists and human rights activists from the area. In Belarus, journalists face severe restrictions on their ability to report.
The European Union has been pressuring airlines to stop taking Syrians, Iraqis and others to Belarus, and efforts were having some effect. A Beirut-based travel agency said flights from the Lebanese capital to Minsk were suspended for the time being. A Tuesday evening flight by Belarusian carrier Belavia was shown as canceled on the airport’s website.
Iraq urged its citizens at the border to return home. About 200 Iraqis in Belarus have contacted the Iraqi embassy in Russia about returning home in the hope of traveling to the European Union, a spokesman for the embassy told the Interfax agency. The spokesman said an evacuation flight would leave from Minsk on Thursday and that Belarusian authorities had helped repatriate the migrants from the border.