Poland-Belarus: Putin behind migrant crisis at border, says Polish PM Morawiecki

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused the Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the migration crisis on the country’s border with Belarus.

« (Belarusian leader) Lukashenko is the executor of the latest assault, but this assault has a sponsor who is to be found in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin, » Morawiecki said during an emergency debate in the Polish parliament.

The Russian and Belarusian leaders have spoken by phone about the tensions at the border between Poland and Belarus, Moscow and Minsk said on Tuesday.

A statement from the Kremlin simply referred to « an exchange of views on the refugee situation ».

Earlier, its spokesman said Moscow was watching the situation « very closely ».

« It’s a real problem which concerns Belarus and Poland. Of course, we are very worried, » Dmitri Peskov added.

Lukashenko’s office elaborated further, saying the circumstances at the border had featured prominently in the conversation between the two leaders, « as well as the harsh actions of the Polish party towards civilians ».

Minsk described as « particularly worrying » the deployment of Polish security forces at the border and said that the two men, both in power for over two decades, had discussed the situation « in detail ».

Russia is Belarus’ main ally and Lukashenko has relied on Putin for political and financial support in the face of increased pressure from the EU and the West over last year’s disputed election, human rights and more recently the migration crisis.

Thousands of migrants and refugees remained massed in freezing cold weather on Tuesday at the Belarus-Poland border, on the doorstep of the European Union.

A sudden surge in numbers and attempted crossings on Monday brought international condemnation of Belarus. The EU accused Lukashenko of a « cynical » exploitation of migrants, orchestrating the influx in revenge for European sanctions imposed on his autocratic regime after the brutal repression of opposition in the country.

Minsk rejects the allegations and has blamed Poland for flouting its humanitarian obligations. In an interview on Tuesday, Lukashenko accused Poland of conducting a « war » against the migrants.

The EU believes Belarus has been flying people from Middle Eastern countries and dumping them at EU borders, or facilitating their journeys — exploiting them in a « cynical » manner to destabilise the bloc in retaliation for Western sanctions.

The past few days represent a major escalation in tensions between Minsk and its neighbours. For months migrants have been arriving at the country’s border not just with Poland — but also with Lithuania and to a lesser extent, Latvia — the three EU states on the bloc’s eastern border with Belarus.

World opinions / agencies

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