The Polish government claims the Kremlin is behind the flow of refugees trying to cross the border between Poland and Belarus. The Russians reject the accusations and criticize the EU. The Europeans prepare new sanctions and Lukashenko threatens to block the passage of gas. Fears in the Baltic Republics and Ukraine over Moscow's moves.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "trying to rebuild the Empire" and of being the real culprit in the crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus, with Minsk "pushing" thousands of migrants to enter Polish territory: a crisis that has raised the level of tension between Russians and Belarusians on the one hand and the European Union on the other.
The Kremlin has issued a stark response to its historical enemy of the East Slavic world: "we consider the words of the Polish Prime Minister absolutely irresponsible and unacceptable," said spokesman Dmitrij Peskov.
Peskov says the refugees from Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East (the largest group seems to be the Kurds), "only want to get to Western Europe, and we remember the precedents of the recent past, when Europeans spoke of the values related to the defense of these people, of wanting to protect them for humanitarian reasons. Earlier, the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, also intervened, complaining that "it is not permissible to lie so openly, even to oneself". Zakharova says that Lukashenko and Putin assessed the situation together in a phone call on November 9, promising to "maintain close contact on the issue."
Polish President Andrzej Duda claims that Belarusian authorities are voluntarily pushing crowds of migrants into border areas of the Grodno region, where there are no border controls, by driving them through forested paths. None of the parties seems to be willing to compromise to resolve the crisis, which continues to worsen day by day.
At the moment there are between 12 and 15 thousand migrants in Belarus, said the representative of Polish services Stanislaw Zharyn: "The group gathered in recent months," he told Interfax. At least 4 thousand people are stationed near the Polish border, without any shelter.
The concentration of migrants in Belarus had begun to talk in the summer. In August, Lithuania, where refugees from the Middle East and North Africa were seeking entry, had ordered the border police to reject them in Belarus. The EU had obtained a suspension of flights from Iraq to Minsk, and the Iraqi government had organized repatriation flights from Belarus. In autumn the migratory wave swelled again, up to the current emergency.
According to the Belarusian Minister of the Interior, Ivan Kubrakov, "all migrants are legally on the territory of Belarus". The countries of origin reported are Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iran Nigeria. These people are given Belarusian visas directly at the airport in Minsk. Flights from these countries have increased significantly since the summer, creating the "Belarusian corridor" to reach Europe; the Russian company Areoflot risks facing new EU sanctions.
European politicians are convinced that the whole operation is actually a Belarusian attempt to organize a campaign against the EU, to take revenge for the sanctions imposed in the last year. Lukašenko himself has threatened several times to "pay less attention to what happens on the western borders" because of the European policy: "We have always protected you from drugs and migrants, now you are eating and swallowing them yourself", Lukašenko had declared on May 26. Now the Belarusian president is threatening to close gas pipelines and commercial traffic with Western Europe; truck queues at the border with Belarus are reaching 25 kilometers.
Most concerned are Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine, on which more "routed" migrant flows could pour. Lukašenko has even asked Russia to deploy nuclear bombers on the borders with these countries. Kiev is strengthening preventive measures to "block the invasion with engineering restructuring measures on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border," said Deputy Interior Minister Evgenij Enin. "Our neighbors," Enin explained, "must know that we are ready to resist and respond to provocations. More walls rise on Europe's borders."