Belarus and Poland move troops to border in refugee crisis – 11/09/2021 – World

The refugee crisis between Belarus and Poland escalated on Tuesday (9), sparking an exchange of accusations that threatens to bring Russia’s main ally of Vladimir Putin and one of the most aggressive members of NATO (Western military alliance) face to face.

Both countries deployed troops to the borders. Minsk has said it will react to any provocations, while Warsaw has again accused Aleksandr Lukachenko’s dictatorship of using refugees as a weapon of pressure on their country.

More: Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki directly accused the Russian President of the crisis. “Lukachenko is the executioner of this attack, but he is organized from Moscow, whose orchestra is Putin,” he said in parliament.

The Russian and his Belarusian counterpart had discussed the matter over the telephone, the Kremlin reported.

The turmoil began in the middle of this year, with a large influx of refugees, mostly from Middle Eastern countries like Iraq, being herded by Belarus authorities along the Polish and Lithuanian borders.

The EU (European Union), to which both Belarus’ neighbors belong, claims that the move was forced by Minsk as a form of retaliation for economic sanctions applied by the bloc for the repression of Belarusian opposition.

In August of last year, Lukachenko won yet another front-line election, but he faced massive street protests. Continuous act, hardened the regime and promoted a harsh persecution of rivals, condemned in the West.

Out there

On the other hand, interested in keeping the ally under its orbit, the Kremlin supported the dictator, who has been in power since 1994. More than that, it accentuated military cooperation with joint exercises and the process of political-economic integration of the so-called State of Union between the two countries, a proposal that dates back to the year 2000.

Poland and Lithuania closed their borders to immigrants. On Monday, Warsaw forces had to contain an attempted invasion and, according to the country’s Interior Ministry, 20,000 soldiers were deployed in the region.

The Kremlin has yet to comment on the prime minister’s accusation, but his Foreign Ministry said the West is to blame for the crisis, as it was external interventions in the Middle East that generated wars and an influx of refugees.

“‘It is inadmissible [a União Europeia] use different standards for Poland,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference on Tuesday.

“Sealing the Polish border is in our national interest. But today, the stability and security of the entire EU is at stake,” Morawiecki had previously said on Twitter. “We will not be intimidated and we will defend peace in Europe with our NATO and EU partners.”

Poland estimates as many as 15,000 refugees in its neighbour, at least 4,000 of them concentrated in a camp in Kuznica.

Belarus’ Defense Ministry said Poland had violated bilateral security agreements and sent, without warning, 10,000 soldiers to the borders. “We would like to alert the Polish side against any provocation,” the body said in a statement.

In addition to the occasional skirmish due to Lukachenko’s repression, the real underlying issue is the antagonism between the Europeans and Putin.

Poland is one of the most vocal members of NATO and the European Union in its grievances against the Kremlin, fueling a bitter rivalry that goes back to the past when the country was used as a buffer by both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union to the continent.

The Russians, on the other hand, accuse the Poles of Cold War-style paranoia, in addition to pointing out the country’s massive militarization. Among NATO’s 30 members, Poland is the seventh that spends the most on defense, in proportion to its Gross Domestic Product: in 2021, it invested 2.1% of it in the sector, above the alliance’s target of 2%, something that only ten countries in the club do.

As authorities squabble, the human drama continues in no man’s land between the forces of both countries. There are reports of food shortages and images on social media of bonfires and makeshift camps along the border.

The region’s harsh cold promises a winter of suffering for the refugees, who European officials say were purposely lured to Belarus — which it denies, saying the migrants are legally in the country.

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