Tuesday, November 9th, 2021
Escalation in the refugee dispute
Lukashenko refers to Putin’s nuclear weapons
The Belarusian autocrat is bringing a nuclear escalation into play in the refugee dispute with the EU. Should “mistakes” occur at the Polish border, Russia would be drawn into the conflict. Warsaw, on the other hand, sees Kremlin chief Putin as the real mastermind behind the onslaught on the EU’s external border.
The Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko has indirectly warned of a military escalation in the border dispute with Poland. “If we make the slightest mistake here, God forbid, it will immediately involve Russia, the largest nuclear power in the world,” said the autocrat in an interview broadcast by the state media in Minsk, adding that he was not a madman. He knew where that would lead. At the same time, Lukashenko held internationally organized smuggling networks responsible for the thousands of migrants on the border with Poland. The refugees used these structures and paid a lot of money to find a better life in the West, said Lukashenko. “They’re not poor people who come,” he said. “You discovered a hole in us.”
The entry of migrants into Belarus is completely legal, said the 67-year-old. At the same time he emphasized that smugglers are sometimes caught, but a citizen from Belarus is never among them. Western states, especially the USA, would have waged war in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. The people there no longer had a livelihood and now used various routes to Europe to build up a perspective. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested that the European Union could provide Belarus with financial aid to keep migrants away.
Poland sees Putin as a mastermind
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Russia of being behind the refugee dispute between the EU and Belarus. The Belarusian ruler “Lukashenko is the perpetrator of the latest attack, but the client of this attack is in Moscow and that client is President Putin,” Morawiecki said at an emergency session of the Polish parliament.
The situation on the border between Poland and Belarus remained extremely tense in the evening. Poland warned of further clashes with migrants who tried to force their way into the country with Belarusian help. “The Belarusian regime is attacking the Polish border and the EU in an unprecedented manner,” said President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw. A representative from the Polish government said tensions could increase in the coming days and require additional international assistance.
Morawiecki visited the crisis area to demonstrate support for thousands of additional soldiers, border guards and police who had been ordered there. On Monday, thousands of people gathered on the Belarusian side near the border with Poland. According to video footage, some tried to cut through the barbed wire fence with shovels and wooden beams. For this reason, Poland has now closed a nearby official border crossing.
Shots in the air, tools for migrants
According to Dudas, there are around 1,000 migrants, mostly young men, in a camp near the border on Belarusian territory. According to the EU Commission, a total of around 2000 migrants are on the Belarusian border with Poland. Duda described the attempted conversions as aggressive acts that Poland had to oppose. As an EU member, the country is obliged to do so. The EU accuses Lukashenko of deliberately smuggling migrants from the Middle East into the EU states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in order to retaliate against sanctions adopted by Brussels.
The Ministry of Defense in Minsk rejected the allegations as unfounded and appointed the Polish military attaché. Polish authorities accuse Belarusian security forces of deliberately destabilizing the situation. For example, shots were fired in the air and migrants were equipped with tools to tear down the border fence. The Polish border guard counted 309 attempts to illegally cross the border on Monday, and 17 people were arrested, mostly Iraqis.
Lithuania declares a state of emergency
The neighboring country of Lithuania declared a state of emergency on its border with Belarus. This should initially apply for one month. As part of the declaration of emergency, Lithuania wants to ban all journeys in a five-kilometer-wide strip along the border with Belarus from midnight. Border guards are urged to use “appropriate physical force” to prevent migrants from entering Lithuanian territory. The parliamentary resolution on the state of emergency states that the massive influx of foreigners poses a serious threat to society.
According to Polish estimates, a total of up to 12,000 migrants are currently in Belarus. The EU drew the first conclusions from the escalation. The governments of the member states partially suspended an agreement with Belarus to facilitate the issuing of visas. According to the EU Council, Belarusian authorities are affected, but not ordinary citizens. The EU Commission said that additional sanctions were being prepared against the country. In addition, it is checking, according to its own information, whether there are more flights from African countries, Russia, India and Iran to Belarus and who is being transported with the machines.