Violence erupted on the Poland-Belarus border on Tuesday (16), when migrants desperate to enter the European Union threw stones at Polish border guards, who responded with water cannons and tear gas.
Polish and Belarusian authorities blame each other for rising tensions at the border, where thousands of people have traveled in hopes of entering the EU, but who are finding themselves stranded at the border in freezing conditions.
There were chaotic scenes at the Bruzgi-Kuźnica border crossing, where crowds of migrants could be seen breaking cinder blocks and gathering tree branches to throw towards the Polish side. Loud booms rang out over the crowd, and a thick cloud of smoke hung over their heads.
Belarusian state media BeITA reported that water cannons used by Polish forces sprayed a yellow liquid that caused burns, and that people were suffocating and feeling sick from the smoke.
a team from CNN International was hit by water shot by Polish guards. According to police in Poland, seven police officers were injured after being hit by shells.
“We are fighting to stay alive”
Women and children who, just a day earlier, had camped in tents near the border fence had returned, and the men, many of them expressing their anger at being left in limbo in dire conditions, were piling up in the most dramatic confrontations against rendezvous. “We are fighting to stay alive,” one man told CNN.
The Polish Border Guard said on Tuesday (16) that migrants camped near the Bruzgi-Kuźnica checkpoint were behaving “aggressively”, throwing stones and various objects at Polish services.
“To prevent illegal crossing of the border, water cannons were used against aggressive foreigners,” the security agency said on Twitter.
Poland’s Ministry of Defense shared footage on the social network showing Polish officers and soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder with shock shields as stones were hurled over the barbed-wire border fence, describing the scene as an “attack by migrants”. The ministry also accused the Belarusian services of equipping migrants with “stun grenades”.
Poland’s security services spokesman Stanisław Żaryn wrote on Twitter on Tuesday of the clashes, congratulating Polish forces on successfully repelling the “first wave of border attacks.”
The BelTA channel reported “a worsening situation” at the border on Tuesday (16), as migrants try “by all means to reach Poland” and Polish authorities respond with tear gas, shock grenades and water cannons” , pouring water on people in the cold.
“People say they are tired of waiting and are ready to break through,” according to BeITA.
Belarus State Border Guards Committee spokesman Anton Bychkovsky told BelTA that the agency was initiating an investigation into the “incident” on Tuesday.
It is unclear what sparked today’s clashes (16), but there is a growing sense of frustration among migrants that Europe is not welcoming them. They are now facing conditions that the UN has called “catastrophic”, suffering from hunger and hypothermia camped in flimsy tents in makeshift camps on the border.
Information has flown over the past 48 hours in the camps that the Polish government could open the border and allow a humanitarian corridor into Germany. Poland vehemently denied it, and people crowding the area received text messages from Polish authorities saying the information was a “total and meaningless lie”.
The SMS message, also received by team members from CNN in the area, he says in part: “Poland will not allow migrants to move to Germany. It will protect your border. Don’t be fooled, don’t try to take any action.”
Lukashenko puts the lives of migrants “at risk”
The crisis led the EU to prepare new sanctions against Belarus, which it accuses of producing the crisis on the bloc’s eastern border.
President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied such allegations, blaming the West for the crossings and accusing it of ill-treatment of migrants.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that the military alliance is “deeply concerned about the way the Lukashenko regime is using vulnerable migrants as a hybrid tactic against other countries, and this is really putting it off. the lives of migrants are at risk”.
He was speaking ahead of a meeting with EU defense ministers on Tuesday (16), and a day after warning Moscow that NATO would support Ukraine against “potentially aggressive actions” amid a large concentration of Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine. Ukraine is not a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) or the EU.
Military movements continue to test a fragile political order in the region and deepen concerns about the potential for a broader geopolitical crisis.
conversation with putin
Lukashenko spoke on Tuesday (16) with Russian ally President Vladimir Putin about the situation on the Belarus border, days after the two countries applied their military might near Poland in joint paratrooper exercises.
The leaders also discussed the situation in neighboring Ukraine and US-led exercises near Russia’s borders and on the Black Sea, Lukashenko’s office said.
Russia, Belarus’ biggest political and economic partner, continues to defend how Minsk is handling the border crisis, while denying any involvement in it.
On Monday, the EU increased pressure on all parties involved in the escalating border crisis. The bloc’s head of foreign affairs, Josep Borrell, announced at a press conference in Brussels that EU foreign ministers had agreed to impose new sanctions on “people, airlines, travel agencies and all those involved in this illegal push of migrants against our borders”.
The complete list of people and entities will be “confirmed in the coming days”, he added. This will be the fifth round of sanctions applied to Belarus by the EU after a disputed presidential election and crackdown on dissidents.
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Reference: CNN Brasil
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