A group of migrants has attempted to forcibly enter Poland from Belarus, according to Poland's Interior Ministry. Warsaw has accused Minsk of preparing a "provocation."
Poland accused the Belarusian government of planning a "major provocation" by encouraging a large group of migrants to cross the Polish border on Monday.
"Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties," Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio.
His statement came after the Polish Defense Ministry published a video of the migrant group nearing the border town of Kuznica.
Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for the ministry coordinating Poland's intelligence agencies, said the group is preparing to enter Poland "en masse."
He also claimed the migrants were "under a strict control of Belarusian armed units who decide which way the group can or can't go."
"It's yet another example of the [Belarus] regime's hostile activity targeted against Poland," he added.
Belarusian opposition news outlet NEXTA said most of the migrants were Iraqi Kurds, and that the group included many women and children.
What is the situation at the EU's borders with Belarus?
Poland has deployed additional border guards, police and the military at its Belarus border. According to the Defense Ministry, the country now has 12,000 soldiers in the region, up from 10,000 deployed ahead of the latest developments. Members of Poland's army reserve in the border regions were also put on full alert.
"We are prepared for any scenario," Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said in a tweet on Monday morning.
Later on Monday, Polish authorities said they have averted "an attempt by migrants to forcibly cross into Poland" near Kuznica.
"The situation has been brought under control," they added.
Lithuania, another EU and NATO member bordering Belarus, also said it was moving soldiers to its border regions as migrants were gathering on the Belarusian side. Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said Vilnius will consider declaring a state of emergency in the region on Monday.
Separately, Germany has accused Minsk of "luring" migrants to Belarus in order to redirect them into the EU, which Berlin described as "deceitful" and inhumane.
Why are migrants heading from Belarus?
Warsaw has repeatedly accused Minsk of encouraging and coordinating illegal border crossings into EU member Poland.
Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko has been enraged by EU sanctions over his ferocious crackdown on anti-government protests. Brussels has accused Minsk of "weaponizing" migrants by flying them to the capital from abroad and taking them to the EU's doorstep. Since July, large numbers of migrants from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other troubled regions have been attempting to illegally enter the EU via Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
At the same time, Poland has been facing accusations of pushing migrants back into Belarus instead of giving them a chance to ask for asylum.
Responding to Poland's comments on Monday, authorities in Belarus said they were taking "necessary measures to ensure the continuous functioning of international transport channels." Belarus officials also blamed Poland for the migrants' foray.
"This desperate move is due to the indifference and inhumane attitude of the Polish authorities," they said.
dj/rt (AP, Reuters, Interfax)
First published: November 8, 2021
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