Baltic States Warn Of Military Clash Over Belarus “Deliberate Escalation” Of Migrant Crisis
Countries neighboring Belarus and Poland are warning of potential coming military confrontation between the two countries as the migrant border crisis continued escalating in the overnight hours and into Thursday.
“Migrants stranded inside Belarus threw stones and branches at Polish border guards and used tree trunks to try to break down a barbed wire fence overnight in new attempts to force their way into the EU, Warsaw authorities said on Thursday,” Reuters described of the scene near the northeast Polish village of Kuznica.
The situation is being considered urgent enough for the defense ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to come together and issue a joint statement condemning Belarus for using migrants as weapons. This after Polish officials charged Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko with sending Muslim migrants into the EU as a form of “hybrid attack” and as retaliation for Western sanctions.
The three Baltic countries condemned “the deliberate escalation of the ongoing hybrid attack by the Belarusian regime, which poses a serious threat to European security.”
“This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spread to the military,” the joint statement said further.
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_A) November 11, 2021
Both Lithuania and Latvia have along with Poland sent military and border patrol reinforcements to key crossings shared with Belarus. In fresh statements Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski called the crisis “the worst threat Poland has faced in the last thirty years.”
Poland and EU officials have continued to accuse Belarus of orchestrating a provocation at the border, after videos emerged of Belarusian security appearing to assist migrants in their confrontation with Polish police on the other side at Kuznica crossing.
Russia is also now standing accused of being involved, which the Kremlin angrily rejected on Wednesday. Reuters describes there’s a series of necessary logistical steps prior to Mideast migrants arriving at the entry points to the EU via Belarus:
Most migrants use travel agencies throughout the Middle East that work with Belarusian companies to book tourism packages that usually include visas, flights, and accommodation.
The cost of the entire trip varies and can reach around $14,000. In October, Minsk limited the number of travel agencies in Belarus allowed to provide tourism invitations, and smugglers as well as agencies have reported an increase in prices.
As we detailed earlier, on Wednesday Russia sent a pair of long-range bombers over Belarus in a coordinated action seen as a ‘message’ to the EU, which is now preparing fresh sanctions on Minsk.
Lukashenko defended the highly provocative military maneuver, alarmingly noting too that the Russian bombes are nuke-capable:
“We have to constantly monitor the situation at the border. Let them squeak, let them shout. Yes, they are bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons. But we have no other option. We have to see what they do. There outside the borders and we have to see what they do.”
Meanwhile EU officials are now pointing the finger at Russian state carrier Aeroflot as facilitating the movement of migrants alongside Belarusian airliners. The new accusation was slammed as “crazy” by the Kremlin.
Thousands of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia are stuck at the border of Belarus and Poland in freezing weather.
Activists say the migrants are being used as political pawns in a conflict between Belarus, Poland and the EU. pic.twitter.com/53pYsU2Ln3
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 11, 2021
The EU is now said to be mulling targeted sanctions against Belarusian airlines in particular, as they stand accused of flying Middle East migrants to Minsk in a coordinated effort to get them to border encampments.