Poland has warned that the growing crisis on its border with Belarus could end in a military confrontation. The country deployed more riot police yesterday after groups of migrants tried to storm through a razor-wire fence on the eastern frontier.
Thousands of migrants had camped out on the border on Monday night, surrounded by armed guards, water cannons and barbed wire. The sub-zero temperatures, and occasional warning fire from Belarusian forces, heightened awareness of the precariousness of their situation. Their fates are now entangled in a harsh and unpredictable game of high politics.
The European Union has accused the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, of using the migrants as pawns in a “hybrid attack” against the bloc in retaliation for the sanctions imposed by the EU on the authoritarian government in response to a brutal internal crackdown on dissent. Thousands were jailed and beaten following protests after Lukashenko won a sixth term in 2020’s election, which the opposition and the west saw as rigged.
Expert Artyom Shraibman, now based in exile in Kiev, agrees with this interpretation, saying that Mr Lukashenko sees the migrant emergency as revenge for the sanctions as well as for the EU’s support for the opposition. Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have offered the harshest criticism of his actions, says Mr Shraibman, adding: “He wants them to suffer.”
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