“A morning on the European border can’t be described as ‘good’,” a Belarusian state TV correspondent reports as he crawls out of one of the migrants’ tents into the predawn darkness.
“You hear children wailing and coughing across the camp,” he goes on. “People are dying right in front of European border guards – all of this with the silent approval of the Brussels bureaucrats.”
The brutal regime of Alexander Lukashenko, which has orchestrated the migrant crisis on Europe’s doorstep, is using tightly controlled state media to portray EU guards as “Nazis” who abuse destitute asylum seekers.
While Belarusian television has ignored the violent crackdown on anti-Lukashenko protesters at home, it has no qualms reporting on the chaotic scenes at the Polish border and is pumping out propaganda to downplay Minsk’s own role in the crisis.
‘Breaking their ribs’
Mr Lukashenko, often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator”, has made good on his promise to “flood” the bloc with migrants as revenge for Western sanctions against his regime. Thousands of people have been camping by the fence separating Belarus and Poland since the start of the week in an escalating crisis.
The Belarusian leader, whose own security forces beat and tortured peaceful protesters last year, alleged Poland was doing the same to those who break through the border.
Polish servicemen reinforcing the border line with barbed wire as migrants gather at the Belarus-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus, 09 November 2021
Credit: Leonid Scheglov/BelTA
“They’re beating them up, breaking their ribs. People are covered in bruises,” he said on Thursday.
“We need to pay attention to pregnant women and children – this is a complete catastrophe,” he told his ministers, adding that Belarus should put up the children of migrants at local health resorts.
Mr Lukashenko, who is swift to clamp down on any sign of dissent at home, said there was nothing he could do about the camp.
“What’s happening is military, political and psychological sadism on the behalf of Poland,” said Nikolay Shchyokin, a pro-government political analyst, on state TV.
“What we saw in recent nights… These are methods of the Gestapo.”
Fake teen death
State-linked social media channels have gone further, falsely reporting the death of a teenager at the hands of border guards.
“The first death of a child on the conscience of Polish fascists: a 14-year-old boy dies,” read one headline, before a Belarusian official at the border denied the claims, prompting a retraction.
Lyudmila Gladkaya, a notorious pro-regime Belarusian state TV anchor, has meanwhile been dispatched to the border to cover the standoff.
“They flew into Belarus legally, of course: We can’t detain or punish them because they are not breaking the law,” she said of the asylum-seekers while strolling through the camp.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a cabinet meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021
Credit: BelTA / AP
Ms Gladkaya, who has revelled in police violence against anti-Lukashenko protesters and pushed arrested demonstrators into “repenting”, put the blame squarely on Poland.
“Poland is breaking all international laws that have to do with illegal migrants by not allowing people to go where they want to go,” she said.
“Poles will have to take the moral responsibility for victims among migrants, as surely there will be victims.”