Speed Reads

Borderline

Poland accuses Belarus of weaponizing migrants to provoke an armed conflict

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak traveled to Poland's border with Belarus early Tuesday amid growing tensions involving a flow of migrants Poland and its allies say Belarus is directing toward the European Union's eastern border. Up to 4,000 migrants, largely from the Middle East and Africa, traveled to Poland's razor-wired border on Monday but were repelled by Polish riot police. Polish media says many of the migrants are being accompanied by armed men with dogs. 

Poland, the EU, and NATO accuse Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants as a weapon to destabilize Poland and other EU countries in retaliation for economic sanctions imposed after a widely discredited election last year and Lukashenko's forcing down of a RyanAir flight to arrest a government critic. Polish governmental spokesman Piotr Muller told reporters Monday that at some point Poland expects "an escalation" from Belarus that "will be of an armed nature." Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk said it appears "Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties."

Neighboring Lithuania is asking its parliament Tuesday to declare a state of emergency along is border with Belarus. 

Meanwhile, many of the migrants — mostly younger men but also women and children — are stuck in the border area between Poland and Belarus in temperatures that are falling below freezing overnight. Some tell BBC News they know they are being used by Lukashenko but they don't have much future otherwise. Lukashenko denies weaponizing the migrants. The EU called the apparently coordinated flow of migrants a form of "hybrid attack" on the 27-country bloc and voiced support for Poland's border stand.