Poland has accused Belarus of trying to cause a violent provocation following reports that hundreds of migrants are attempting to cross Poland’s border.
Polish officials have said they are prepared to defend the frontier and have increased security measures, deploying more than 12,000 soldiers – up from the 10,000 that were there recently.
Migrants attempted to force their way through the barbed wire at a crossing in Kuznica, in the northeast.
The European Union has accused Belarus of engaging in a form of hybrid warfare by encouraging thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into EU countries via its borders.
The bloc perceives this to be an act of revenge for Western sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.
“Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties: according to media reports, they are preparing a major provocation near Kuznica Bialostocka, that there will be an attempt at a mass border crossing,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio.
Poland has been blocking crossings from Belarus and sending migrants back to the country.
Deputy interior minister, Maciej Wasik, tweeted that “Polish authorities are ready for any scenario”, while Poland’s security services described one of the videos as “very worrying information”.
Latvia called the situation “alarming”, while neighbouring EU member Lithuania said it was moving additional troops to the border to prepare for a possible rise in migrant crossings.
Poland’s Border Guard has reported incidents of hostile behaviour and threats by Belarusian forces aimed at Polish forces across the border.
The Belarusian government has repeatedly denied manufacturing a migrant crisis, saying the West is responsible for the crossings.
The country’s state border committee said Warsaw is taking an “inhumane attitude” and confirmed that a large group of refugees was heading along a freeway to the Polish border.
Video shared by the Belarusian blogging service NEXTA showed migrants carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing as they walked along the freeway, while in other footage large groups of migrants were sitting by the road and being escorted by armed men dressed in khaki.
Exiled Belarusian leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged the United Nations and EU to take action.
“Belarus’ regime escalates the border crisis – migrants are pushed to EU border by armed men,” she tweeted. “The migrant smuggling, violence and ill-treatment must stop.”
Humanitarian groups have accused Poland’s nationalist government of violating the international right to asylum by sending migrants back into Belarus rather than accepting their applications.
Poland says its actions are legal.
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