Belarus threatens to open fire on Polish soldiers who caught them escorting 250 migrants into EU

Belarusian troops threatened to open fire on Polish soldiers who caught them escorting 250 migrants across the border in a major escalation on the edge of the EU. 

The incident came as Vladimir Putin signed a deal with Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian president, that could hand Moscow control of Belarus’s borders and give Mr Putin the power to flood Europe with more migrants.

The Polish government has accused Belarus of pushing large numbers of migrants across the border in an attempt to destabilise both Poland and the EU.

The Polish defence ministry claimed on Thursday that a Polish army unit came across a number of Belarusian troops with a group of around 250 migrants.

“Yesterday saw another provocation against Polish soldiers serving at the border,” the defence ministry said. “Belarusian soldiers guarding the migrants threatened to open fire on our soldiers."

It added that the “actions of the Belarusian soldiers looked like an attempt to escalate the situation”.

It came just hours after the Polish government said that in October a number of armed and uniformed Belarusian soldiers cut a border fence and crossed into Poland in what defence officials have said was an attempt to intimidate Polish troops.

Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland’s defence minister, shared a photo on Twitter, seen below, of Belarusan soldiers with equipment to cut the fence. 

Nasi żołnierze sfotografowali białoruskich pograniczników z nożycami do cięcia płotu. Takie sytuacje na granicy są codziennością. Kryzys na granicy spowodował reżim Łukaszenki. Białorusini każdego dnia dążą do eskalacji, stosują prowokacje i przepychają migrantów na polską stronę pic.twitter.com/zlb2SgTcI4

— Mariusz Błaszczak (@mblaszczak) November 4, 2021

Piotr Wawrzyk, a Polish deputy foreign minister, said that by trying to deny what had happened Belarus was behaving like the old Soviet Union by “denying obvious facts.”

"One can say that these standards are somewhat Soviet-like, where you deny the obvious and try to shift the blame to the other side," he said.

Mr Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, denies he is using migrants to pressure Poland, but the Polish Border Guard are now reporting hundreds of attempted illegal crossings a day; an amount, the Polish government says, that could only be achieved with the intervention of the Belarussian state.

Putin backs ally against foreign ‘interference’

The Polish government has also accused Russia of having a hand in the migration affair.

In an apparent attempt to offer support to the Belarusian president over its stand-off with Warsaw, Mr Putin on Thursday backed his ally against foreign “interference”, as the two signed a series of agreements on closer integration, one of which covers migration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flower-laying ceremony at the memorial complex dedicated to the end of the Russian Civil War during Unity Day in Sevastopol, Crimea on Thursday

Credit: AP

Speaking about the new agreement Vladimir Putin said: “The task of creating an atmosphere of stability and security on our external borders is of particular importance.”

The agreement aims to create a single migration and visa space and could, in theory, ease the transit of migrants across Russia and Belarus to the Polish border and those of other EU states.

To deal with the migratory pressure on its border the Polish government has already deployed some 6,000 troops on its border with Belarus to support the border guard.

Poland to erect 111-mile long steel fence on border

Mariusz Kaminski, the Polish interior minister, said on Thursday that the government will build a 111-mile long steel fence on the border with Belarus. Mr Kaminski said the fence, which will also be 16-feet high will come bristling with high-tech features such as cameras and motion sensors.

Meanwhile, Lithuania built the first stretches of a steel wall on its border with Belarus since migrants from the Middle East and other areas began entering from Belarus this year.

Credit: REUTERS

Last week Lithuania began putting up the first stretches of the 3.4-metre (11-foot) high steel fence, topped with 0.6 metres (2 feet) of razor wire.

"It’s probably impossible to build a totally unpassable obstacle, so I think that this barrier can too be overcome. But that would take a long time, and we would be able to react", said Virgilijus Raugale, the chief boarder guard in southern Lithuania.

Lithuania has allocated 152 million euros to build 500 kilometres (300 miles) of the wall by September next year. The wall is supplemented by a 3-metre high heap of coiled razor wire next to it and video surveillance equipment.

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