Poland accuses Belarus of “state terrorism” for role in escalating migrant crisis
“What we are facing here, let’s be clear, is a manifestation of state terrorism,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters in Warsaw at a press conference with the visiting EU chief , Charles Michel.
Mr Michel said that new sanctions against Belarus “are on the table”.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said she expected “sanctions widening” early next week.
“This is the attempt of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilize its Democratic neighbors. It will not succeed,” she said, speaking after a meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington.
“Sirens and helicopters”
Migrants have been trying to cross the border for months, but the crisis reached a new level when hundreds of people made a concerted effort on Monday and were pushed back by Polish border guards.
They set up a camp on the border, sheltering in tents and burning wood from local forests for warmth, blocked by Polish guards behind barbed wire.
In the Polish town of Sokolka, near the border, patrols were seen stopping vehicles to check migrants’ boots, as well as lines of military trucks and police vans to and from the border.
“The people here are under constant stress,” Sokolka deputy mayor Piotr Romanowicz told AFP news agency.
Izabela Korecki, 38, who was walking around the city center with her daughters, said she felt “tense”.
âWe hear sirens and helicopters all the time,â she said.
Journalists and charity workers have been banned from the immediate border area by Polish authorities under state of emergency rules.
Poland sent 15,000 troops to the border with police and border guards, accusing Belarus of using intimidation to force migrants to cross the border.
Belarus in turn accused Poland of violating international standards by blocking migrants and pushing them back with violence.
In an alleyway in Sokolka, Anna Chmielewska, a volunteer with the Ocalenie (Salut) Foundation, was sorting in a garage filled with donated food and clothing intended for migrants.
“I can’t believe we live in times like this. We are here, we are ready to help but we cannot,” she said, explaining that volunteers could not help. than migrants who cross the border area.
Source: Sipa USA Kommersant
Kyle McNally, Doctors Without Borders’ humanitarian affairs adviser who met migrants on the Belarusian side of the border, called for “unhindered access” to help them.
“The people we have spoken with and seen are really in a desperate state and it is getting worse by the day,” he said.
Call on Russia “to use influence”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called on Lukashenko’s main supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to “use his influence” with Minsk to stop what she called the “inhuman” instrumentalization of migrants.
But Belarus and Moscow have said the West will have to deal with the influx of migrants caused by its military interventions in the Middle East.
The Kremlin said it was “irresponsible” of Poland to blame Putin for the crisis, while Belarus’ foreign minister said the EU was at the root of the crisis because ‘she wanted a reason to impose new sanctions.
“The migrant crisis was caused by the EU itself and its states bordering Belarus,” Vladimir Makei said during a visit to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.
Lavrov accused Western institutions of mounting an “anti-Belarusian campaign”, and said Russia and Belarus had “closely coordinated our approaches” to counter it.
Thousands of migrants have crossed or attempted to cross Belarus to the eastern EU member states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.
At least 10 migrants have died on the Polish-Belarusian border, including seven on the Polish side of the border, according to the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.