Alexander Lukashenko is plotting to send more migrants to the European Union’s borders with Belarus in a fresh hybrid attack on the bloc, the Polish government warned on Saturday.
Paweł Jabłonski, Poland’s deputy foreign minister, told the Sunday Telegraph that the border crisis was not over, despite the regime clearing camps and allowing repatriation flights back to Iraq.
The EU’s foreign affairs service has intensified dialogue with Mr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, who has also held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But Mr Jablonski warned: “He can’t be trusted. Absolutely not, Falling for promises or declarations would be a big mistake.
“He’s been promising a lot. Lukashenko can’t be trusted. He’s engineered this crisis, orchestrated it from the very beginning.”
Makeshift camps have been dismantled close to the border town of Kuznica. However, Polish intelligence has intercepted communications from Belarusian troops to suggest fresh attacks could be launched elsewhere across the frontier.
“We have quite good intelligence as to where these attacks might be moved,” Mr Jablonski said. “But we’re obviously under great duress because of this situation.”
Mr Lukashenko is accused of flying migrants in from the Middle East and assisting them to cross the border illegally into Poland in a Moscow-backed bid to use ‘hybrid warfare’ to force the EU to drop sanctions against his regime.
Up to 4,000 migrants have been camped on the border in sub-zero conditions. There have been hundreds of attempted crossings of the frontier every night and violent skirmishes with Polish troops. About ten migrants are believed to have died in the freezing woods.
Warsaw is “very grateful” for the help of British troops who have been deployed to the border to help and rebuild fences damaged in the recent illegal crossing attempts.
“We believe this is an issue that should be concerning for all Europeans,” Mr Jablonski said. “This is in fact a border not just between Poland and Belarus, but between Europe, the EU and Nato.”
Polish border guards on Saturday reported new attempted crossings by several groups mostly consisting of dozens of migrants.
“Now a bit of a new method has been taken on by the migrants and Belarusian services… Smaller groups of people are trying to cross the border in many places,” Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told local radio station RMF FM.
“There is no question that these attacks are directed by Belarusian services.”
Mr Jablonski said the Belarusian attacks are part of the escalating East-West crisis, which includes Russia amassing tens of thousands of troops on its frontier with Ukraine.
“This is not the time for the EU to be divided,” he said. “What is happening on our eastern border with Belarus is just one element.”
“We also see Russia is concentrating troops on the Ukrainian border. We see growing pressure from Russia as well on Moldova,” he said.
“We are at a very big risk that stability in the region will further deteriorate because of aggressive actions and hybrid attacks orchestrated either directly by [Russian president] Vladimir Putin or by his allies.”
Mr Putin accused the West of using the crisis to stoke tensions with Moscow and said he would deepen his country’s ties with Minsk in a speech to the Russian foreign ministry.
Mr Putin said: “It is also impossible to ignore that Western countries are using the migration crisis on Belarus-Poland border as a new reason for tension in a region close to us, for putting pressure on Minsk, while at the same time forgetting their own humanitarian commitments.”
“Just look how the Polish security forces are behaving at the border,” he said on Thursday, “there are small children there and they are shooting water and tear gas at the crowd, throwing grenades.”
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