Poland and Belarus in tense showdown as hundreds of migrants seek to storm border

Belarus: Migrants mass at Kuznica-Bruzgi border with Poland

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Footage from Kuznica-Bruzgi showed hundreds of people pooling up around the border amid reports of an attempt to enter Poland from Belarus. The two countries have been at loggerheads for weeks, with Minsk claiming Poland has failed to respect agreements on the management of the migrant crisis. Belarusian journalist Tadeusz Giczan shared a video from the border documenting the arrival of the migrants, suggesting a majority of the migrants have been so far unable to cross into Poland.

Mr Giczan reported several members of Belarus’ Interior troops have been deployed to the border, adding the “prison vans and vehicles with barbed wire are arriving” also.

He added: “The column stopped before the crossing.

“In its official statement, Belarus Border Committee says that Poland is responsible for the crisis while the committee is taking all the necessary measures to provide for the safety of people moving along the highway.”

Lithuania’s Interior Ministry confirmed it was moving troops to its border with Belarus to prepare for a possible influx of migrants.

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Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite told a news conference that the Lithuanian Cabinet would also discuss whether to declare a state of emergency in the border zone with Belarus,

Lithuanian authorities declined to say how many soldiers would be moved and precisely where they would be deployed, citing security reasons.

Poland has accused Minsk of trying to spark a major confrontation as footage on social media showed hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border.

Footage shared by the Belarusian blogging service NEXTA showed migrants carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing as they walked on the side of a highway.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio: “Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties.

“According to media reports, they are preparing a major provocation near Kuznica-Bialostocka, that there will be an attempt at a mass border crossing.”

A deputy interior minister, Maciej Wasik, tweeted that “Polish authorities are ready for any scenario”.

The European Union has accused Belarus of encouraging thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into EU countries via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.

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Alexander Lukashenko’s Government repeatedly denied manufacturing a migrant crisis, blaming the West for the crossings and the treatment of migrants at the border.

The Belarusian state border committee issued a statement confirming that a large group of refugees was moving along the highway to the Polish border, and saying Warsaw was taking an “inhumane attitude”.

The EU, the United States, and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass protests following a disputed election last year.

Charities say the migrants face gruelling conditions while trying to cross the border from Belarus, enduring freezing weather and a lack of food, water, and medical attention.

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