The Prime Minister of Poland has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind the migrant crisis at the Belarus-Poland border.
Mateusz Morawiecki said the president of Belarus, a close ally of Putin, is managing the crisis, but “the mastermind is in Moscow”.
It was reported that at least 2,000 migrants were stranded at the border in the freezing cold.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has denied allegations of sending people across the border in retaliation for European sanctions.
Video footage showed crowds of migrants on the Belarusian side of the thorny border with Poland.
Some were trying to cross to the other side, using logs, logs and collective force, while being pushed back by Polish police with what appeared to be tear gas canisters.
Most immigrants come from the Middle East and Asia, and most of them are women and children. They are camped in Belarus, surrounded by Polish border guards on one side, and Belarusian guards on the other.
Nighttime temperatures have dropped below zero, and several people have died in the past few weeks.
Speaking Tuesday during an urgent parliamentary session, the Polish prime minister said after an inspection visit to the troops on the border: “This attack led by Lukashenko has a mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin.”
Morawiecki accused the presidents of Russia and Belarus of trying to destabilize the European Union by allowing refugees to travel across Belarus’ borders and cross into the bloc’s countries.
Morawiecki described the situation as “a new kind of war, in which people are used as human shields.” He said Poland was dealing with a play aimed at creating chaos in the European Union.
He added that it was the first time in thirty years that Poland’s border security had been “fiercely attacked”.
Poland deployed additional forces on the border, warning of a possible “military” escalation, for fear of Belarus causing an accident.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, members of the European Union and NATO, have seen an increase in the number of people trying to enter their countries illegally from Belarus in recent months.
On Tuesday, Lithuania declared a state of emergency on the border with Belarus, and it went into effect from midnight.
Ukraine sees the largest number of arrivals, especially through the main Kuznica border crossing.
Poland has been accused of forcing migrants to return across the border to Belarus, which contravenes international asylum laws.
Journalists and aid agencies were denied access to the border area.
“No one allows us to reach anywhere, whether it is Belarus or Poland,” Iraqi Shawan Kord, 33, told the BBC in a video call.
He recounted how he arrived in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, from Baghdad at the beginning of November, and stayed in a makeshift camp a few meters from the barbed wire fence in Poland.
“There is no way to escape,” Schwan said. “Poland will not let us in. They fly helicopters every night. They don’t let us sleep. We are very hungry. There is no water or food here. There are small children, men and women and families.”
The European Union, NATO and the United States accused Belarus of coordinating the increase in the wave of migrants.
The European Commission accused Ukrainian President Lukashenko of luring migrants with a false promise of easy entry into the European Union, as part of an “inhumane gang-style approach”.
Belgium said Lukashenko’s actions were in retaliation for European Union sanctions imposed after his re-election in a widely discredited ballot and the ensuing crackdown on popular protests.
picture released, EPA
Activists say the migrants are being used as pawns in a political game between Belarus and its European Union neighbors.
What is the situation in Lithuania?
Lithuania has moved troops to its border with Belarus, in preparation for a possible influx of refugees. And her government declared an emergency, as a precautionary response.
Lithuania’s deputy interior minister, Kstutis Lansinkas, told the BBC that more than 20 migrants who were arrested in Lithuania after entering illegally were suspected of links to terrorist organizations.
He added that most of them produced false identification cards when they were arrested, and their background checks are still underway. He could not comment on the identity of the terrorist organizations they are associated with, or on the date of their arrest.
There is always a certain degree of risk, he said, when a large number of people cross a border.
He noted that there is a level of terrorist threat to all Member States. “Our intelligence services are doing their best to prevent such activities,” he added.
picture released, Shwan Kurd
What did Belarus say?
In an interview with the official Belarus news agency, President Lukashenko said that he wanted to avoid any military escalation on the border, which could bring Russia into conflict.
He added that he was “not crazy” and knew what was at stake, but kept up his defiance, saying, “We will not kneel.”
Belarus’ Defense Minister accused Poland of violating the agreements by moving thousands of troops to the border.
The Belarusian side stresses that migrants arrive legally, and that it treats it only as a “hospitable country”.
Russia praised its ally’s “responsible” handling of the border dispute, and said it was closely monitoring the situation.