WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the country’s top Belarusian diplomat on Friday after Polish authorities claimed that Belarusian armed forces had fired shots – possibly empty ammunition – at Polish troops along their common border.
The incident marks an escalation in tensions along the border between Belarus and Poland, which is also part of the European Union’s eastern border. The Polish government accuses Belarus of encouraging people from the Middle East and Africa to immigrate to the EU in large numbers by entering Poland.
Polish armed forces have reacted in many cases by pushing migrants back across the border into Belarus. Some asylum seekers have also died while trapped between the two countries.
Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Polish border guards, said Belarusian forces fired shots at Poland’s troops across the European Union’s eastern border on Thursday. She did not specify the powers.
Michalska said no one was injured and that blind ammunition was most likely used. She said the guards were under increasing pressure and stress due to a growing number of incidents where objects were thrown at Polish soldiers by the Belarusian side.
The area along the border is restricted as part of the state of emergency imposed by Poland at the beginning of September, and neither journalists nor human rights activists can monitor the situation there. It was impossible to independently verify the claims made by the Polish authorities.
The Polish state news agency PAP reported, citing Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina, that the Belarus director had been summoned on the matter.
PAP also reported that Belarusian business manager Alaksandr Czasnouski told journalists when he left the meeting that “the information about the shots is not true”.
In Belarus, State Border Protection Committee spokesman Anton Bychkovsky denied allegations of gunfire and said that Belarusian border officials had not used weapons in the past 24 hours, according to Russian state news agency Tass.
Bychkovsky said the committee had formally asked the Polish authorities to substantiate their claim, Tass said.
EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have fortified their borders in response to illegal immigration from Belarus. They claim that the Moscow-backed Belarusian government is organizing and encouraging people to enter EU territory as an element of a “hybrid war” in retaliation for Western sanctions against the authoritarian government in Minsk.
Meanwhile, tensions are also mounting in Poland, where some Poles accuse the government of treating migrants inhumanly. During a protest on Friday, activists threw red paint, symbolizing blood, on the parliamentary grounds in Warsaw.
The action is “a gesture of solidarity with refugees who are dying at the border,” said activist Marcin Mycielski.
Follow AP’s global migration reporting at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
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