Tensions are rising on the Polish-Belarusian border, ministers say – The First News

Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński (R) and Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak (L) held a joint press conference on Monday to report on the situation on Poland’s eastern border.
Radek Pietruszka / PAP

The situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, where hundreds of migrants are trying to enter Poland and thus the EU, is extremely tense due to provocations by Belarusian government services, said two Polish ministers.

Poland and the Baltic countries have accused the Belarusian government of pushing migrants, mostly from the Middle East, across their borders in order to destabilize both their neighbors and the EU.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński and Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak reported on the situation on Poland’s eastern border in a joint press conference on Monday.

“There have been a number of provocative incidents involving Belarusian uniformed services, as well as mass attempts to violate the integrity of our border,” said Kamiński, calling Minsk’s actions politically incited “illegal mass migration”.

“The people who try to cross our border are not threatened in Belarus,” said Kamiński. “They are legally there and in fact they are invited by the (Alexander-) Lukashenko regime and used by him as weapons and ammunition for political reasons.”

According to Kamiński, since August Poland has registered 9,400 attempts to illegally cross the Polish border from Belarus, 8,200 of which were foiled.

“We have detained around 1200 illegal immigrants in detention centers,” he said. “Some of them have no documents and many of them have false documents.”

Kamiński also said, without providing details, that one in four people in a 200-strong group of illegal migrants screened have dangerous connections and are implicated in illegal practices.

He also claimed that 20 percent of the detained migrants had ties to the territory of the Russian Federation.

According to Kamiński and Stanisław Żaryn, spokesman for the Polish special services coordinator, some migrants had a terrorist or paramilitary background, including ties to the so-called Islamic State.

Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said 2,500 soldiers are supporting border officials on the Polish-Belarusian border.

Poland managed to erect 140 kilometers of a new border fence and a protective fence for animals.

Błaszczak also cited numerous cases of provocations by the Belarusian armed forces, including shooting in the air, aiming weapons at Polish soldiers, throwing fireworks or leaving mysterious packages near the border and fleeing them quickly.

“Incidents are provoked at the border that can lead to very tense situations,” said Błaszczak.

The interior minister also said he would recommend that the government extend the 30-day state of emergency in the border regions for a further 60 days since the beginning of September.

Poland now has around 4,000 border guards at the border, supported by around 600 police officers.

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