Tuesday, March 21

Poland-Belarus: Putin Behind Migration Crisis At Border, Says Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the migration crisis on the country’s border with Belarus.

“(Belarusian leader) Lukashenko is the executor of the last assault, but this assault has a sponsor who is in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin,” Morawiecki said during an emergency debate in the Polish parliament.

The prime minister described the situation on the border as part of an effort by Russia to disrupt a region it controlled during the Soviet era.

“The security of our eastern border is being brutally violated. This is the first situation of its kind in 30 years when we can say that the integrity of our borders is being tested,” he said.

Russian and Belarusian leaders spoke by phone about tensions on the Polish-Belarusian border, Moscow and Minsk said on Tuesday.

Poland reinforced its border with Belarus with more riot police, a day after groups tried to attack through a barbed wire fence. Thousands of migrants and refugees remain concentrated in an icy climate on Poland’s eastern border, at the gates of the European Union.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Belarusian authorities accused Poland of abusing four migrants at the border.

“In view of the numerous injuries to the bodies of the migrants, the Polish law enforcement officers brutally treated them and chased them over the barbed wire fence on the border with Belarus,” said the Border Guard Service of Belarus.

Moscow’s role under scrutiny

The European Union said Tuesday it is monitoring 20 countries, including Russia, for their possible role in transporting migrants to Belarus, which Brussels accuses of orchestrating the influx of migrants at its external borders.

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Action has been taken against 13 countries from where the flights are said to have transported migrants to Minsk.

A spokesman for the EU’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said Moscow was on his “radar” and Brussels was evaluating information and data on flights from Russia and their possible involvement.

Acknowledging the phone call between Lukashenko and Putin, a Kremlin statement simply referred to “an exchange of views on the refugee situation.”

Earlier, spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Moscow was “very concerned” and described the situation as “a real problem that worries Belarus and Poland.”

Lukashenko’s office elaborated, saying that the circumstances at the border had figured prominently in the conversation between the two leaders, “as well as the tough actions of the Polish party towards civilians.”

Minsk has tried to blame Poland, describing the deployment of Polish security forces on the border as “particularly worrying”. In an interview on Tuesday, Lukashenko blamed Poland for disobeying its humanitarian obligations and accused Poland of waging a “war” against migrants.

Russia is Belarus’s main ally and Lukashenko has relied on Putin for political and financial support in the face of mounting pressure from the EU and the West over last year’s disputed elections, human rights and, more recently, the migration crisis.

The sudden increase in numbers and attempts to cross into Poland on Monday prompted international condemnation of Belarus. The EU accused Lukashenko of a “cynical” exploitation of migrants, orchestrating the influx in revenge for the European sanctions imposed on his autocratic regime after the brutal repression of the opposition in the country.

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The EU believes that Belarus has been transporting people from Middle Eastern countries and dumping them at EU borders, or facilitating their travels, exploiting them in a “cynical” way to destabilize the bloc in retaliation for Western sanctions.

The last few days represent a major escalation in tensions between Minsk and its neighbors. For months, migrants have been arriving at the country’s border not only with Poland, but also with Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia, the three EU states on the bloc’s eastern border with Belarus.

Michel Demands a ‘Quick’ Solution for Border Financing

European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday demanded a “quick” solution on funding the EU’s borders amid what he called Belarus’ “arming” of immigrants on its eastern border.

Michel has asked the other member states to support Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

“The Polish and Baltic borders are EU borders. One for all and all for one,” the Belgian said Tuesday during a speech marking the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Twelve EU countries, including Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, as well as Denmark, Austria and Hungary, demanded in early October that physical barriers at the borders be at least partially financed with EU funds.

However, the president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, rejected this demand.


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