No military threat on the Belarusian border: President of Poland

The Polish president said on Wednesday that there is “no military threat” on the European Union-Belarus border, where thousands of Belarusian-controlled migrants are trying to reach the bloc’s soil and where Poland has sent troops to the rear.

President Andrzej Duda said Poland is primarily using civilian police and border guards to fulfill its duty to protect the EU’s eastern border from “the pressure of illegal immigration.”

The presence of the Polish army there is mainly a backup, he said during his visit to Montenegro.

A Polish government official said earlier on Wednesday that migrants camped on the Belarusian side were taken by bus, suggesting a tense confrontation could ease.

The Polish Border Guard posted a video on Twitter in which Belarusian troops guided migrants with bags and backpacks off the border.

Polish Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik said he was informed that migrants were boarding buses in Belarus and leaving the area.

However, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for the Border Guard, said the migrants were seen carrying logs with them, raising questions about whether they could be relocated to another location on the border.

A large number of people in the Middle East have been stranded at the Polish border crossing since 8 November, waiting and hoping to enter Europe. Most flee conflict or despair at home and seek out Germany or other Western European countries.

The West has accused Lukashenko of using immigrants as pawns to overthrow the 27-nation alliance in retaliation for its sanctions on authoritarian government. Belarus denies having organized a crisis.

Migrants carry their meals during the distribution of humanitarian aid in the Grodno region of Belarus, near the checkpoint in Bruzgi-Kuznica on the Belarusian-Polish border in Belarus. (Leonid Scheglov / BelTA / Reuters)

Polish President Duda stressed that Poland will not accept international decisions on border dispute settlement without Polish involvement. Duda referred to recent talks, including on Tuesday night, between resigning German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belarusian authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko, whose authority has been questioned by the West.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German government, referred to the plight of migrants brought to and from the Belarusian border.

To improve the humanitarian situation, he said, “it makes sense to also talk to those who have the opportunity to change this situation in Minsk, even if it is a ruler whose legitimacy, like all other European member states, Germany does not recognize.”

UN aid to migrants

Seibert said UN aid has begun to reach migrants at the border and it is important to ensure permanent access for humanitarian organizations.

Tensions escalated on Tuesday as Polish troops at the border used water cannons and tear gas against migrants throwing rocks. Warsaw accused the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus of handing over smoke grenades and other weapons to those crossing the border.

But on Wednesday, Polish authorities said the situation had calmed down and, although they registered 161 attempts to cross the Polish border illegally, the large migrant camp next to the Kuznica border crossing, which is now closed, had fewer people.

“The camp site near Kuznica is slowly being emptied,” said Polish Deputy Interior Minister Wasik.

It was not clear where they were taken, and the information provided by the authorities is difficult to verify, as journalists face restrictions when working on both sides of the border. The state of emergency in Poland keeps journalists, human rights workers and others out of the border at a depth of three kilometers.


A spokesman for the German Ministry of the Interior denied rumors that Berlin was planning to pick up the migrants and take them to Germany.

Steve Alter said current developments show that “the road to Belarus is a dead end for most people who want to go to Germany. There are no plans to accept people.”

Estonia, which is also affected by migrant movements, but to a much lesser extent, announced that it would build a temporary railing of up to 40 kilometers long on its eastern border as a temporary solution to ensure border security.

The northernmost of the three Baltic countries, with a population of 1.3 million, has a land border with Russia of 294 kilometers and a border with Latvia of 340 kilometers, but no border with Belarus.

Flights to Iraq

Iraq has urged its citizens to fly home and told them that the road to the EU is closed. The first flights are scheduled for Thursdays.

Belta state news agency Belta said the migrants received protection at a logistics center on the border, allowing them to sleep indoors instead of outdoor tents after several days.

The West has accused Lukashenko of using immigrants as pawns to overthrow the 27-nation alliance in retaliation for its sanctions on authoritarian government. Belarus denies having organized a crisis.

Meanwhile, a Polish press organization said people dressed in Polish army uniforms handcuffed and beat three photojournalists working on Polish territory but outside the restricted area on Tuesday.

Press Club Polska published pictures of bruises left on the wrists of two photojournalists.

The Polish Ministry of Defense denied the use of violence, but said troops have the right to intervene when they deem it necessary in times of high tension in the region. It said the photo reporters were disguised and had no signs that they were media representatives.

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