Guards, migrants violently clash at Belarus-Poland border

0
13
Guards, migrants violently clash at Belarus-Poland border

The dangerous situation along the Belarus–Poland border intensified Tuesday, as Polish forces fired tear gas and deployed water cannons against migrants who attacked them with stones.

The Border Guard agency shared video on social media showing a water cannon being directed at a group of migrants in a makeshift camp amid freezing temperatures. Police said one officer was seriously hurt in the confrontation when he was hit in the head.

The clashes marked an escalation in a tense migration and political border crisis where the lives of thousands of migrants are at stake. Police said stun grenades and tear gas canisters had also been flung at officers.

Polish guards estimated that as many as 4,000 migrants are camped out along the border in increasingly dire conditions, according to Reuters.

Western powers allege that Belarus is orchestrating the crisis — possibly with the backing of Russia — by drawing migrants to the border to sow division in the European Union. Minsk and Moscow deny the claims.

“Migrants attacked our soldiers and officers with rocks and are trying to destroy the fence and cross into Poland,” the Polish Defense Ministry said Tuesday. “Our forces used tear gas to quell the migrants’ aggression.”

Polish law enforcement officers using a water cannon on migrants.
A water cannon was directed at a group of migrants in a makeshift camp amid freezing temperatures.
BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the use of tear gas and water cannon by Polish forces to stop migrants entering from Belarus was “absolutely unacceptable”.

“The behavior of the Polish side is absolutely unacceptable,” he told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday, citing “tear gas and a water cannon and shots fired above the heads of migrants towards the direction of Belarus.”

On Monday, Lukashenko discussed the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his first phone call with a Western leader since Minsk was slapped with sanctions last year over a brutal crackdown on election protests last year.

A man throws a stone during clashes with Polish border guards.
“Migrants attacked our soldiers and officers with rocks and are trying to destroy the fence and cross into Poland,” the Polish Defense Ministry said.
Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP

Merkel’s office said the two leaders discussed bringing humanitarian aid to the migrants, whose number includes many young children.

Lukashenko — in power since 1994 and accused by the West of rigging last year’s election — said he and Merkel agreed that the standoff should be defused.

“We were of the united opinion that nobody needs escalation — not the EU, or Belarus,” he said.

A man runs away from a water cannon.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the use of tear gas and water cannon by Polish forces to stop migrants entering from Belarus was “absolutely unacceptable”.
Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP

However, he also added that he had “differing” views with Merkel on how the migrants got to Belarus.

The West said Minsk had brought them there as revenge for the sanctions.

The EU claims Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime is fomenting a migration crisis in order to pressure the bloc.

Polish serviceman sprays tear gas during clashes.
Polish guards estimated that as many as 4,000 migrants are camped out along the border.
Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that the alliance was deeply concerned about Lukashenko’s strategy of putting migrant lives at risk, offering Poland support.

“We are deeply concerned about the way the Lukashenko regime is using vulnerable migrants as a hybrid tactic against other countries and he is putting the lives of the migrants at risk,” he said, according to Reuters.

“We stand in solidarity with Poland and other affected allies,” Stoltenberg told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with EU defense ministers.

With Post wires

Source link