The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday urged the European Union (EU) to resume dialogue with the government of Belarus, which is accused of fomenting a migration crisis on its border with Poland and threatened to suspend gas supplies to Europe if it is subject to new sanctions.
In case of punitive measures, Minsk “will respond”, said the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, mentioning the possibility of interrupting gas deliveries from the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, which mainly transfers Russian gas to Germany and Poland.
“What would happen if we cut the natural gas that goes there?” Asked Lukashenko, who uttered this threat at a time when European countries are suffering from rising gas prices due to a reduction in supply.
More than 2,000 migrants, mostly Kurds, have been blocked out in the open for several days on the border between Belarus and Poland, in deplorable humanitarian conditions, while the temperatures in this part of Europe drop to zero degrees.
This crisis between Belarus, ally of Russia, and Poland, member of the European Union, was the subject of debate at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
The western countries of the body condemned in a joint resolution “the orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings” by Belarus with the aim of “diverting attention from its own and growing human rights violations”.
The Russian ambassador to the UN, Dmitri Polianski, reproached the EU not serving these migrants. “They are not allowed to cross the border, they are persecuted, beaten. It is a shame,” he said.
The EU accuses Belarus to organize these movements of migrants and to grant them visas and even charter planes to destabilize Europe and thus take revenge on the western sanctions imposed against the government of Lukashenko following his criticized re-election in 2020, which was followed by violently repressed mass demonstrations.
Putin asked the European Union to “reestablish its contacts” with Belarus “to solve the migration crisis as soon as possible.”
However, Germany considered that “it was time to draw the consequences” of this crisis and strengthen sanctions against the Belarusian government. According to Brussels, new measures will be announced next week.
From Berlin, Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tijanóvskaya assured that the threat to cut off Lukashenko’s gas was not “serious”. “It would hurt him and Belarus more than the European Union,” he told AFP.
With a tough policy on migration, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who accused Putin of “orchestrating” the crisis, he assured that his country was the victim of a “war of an unknown type”, in which civilians are used as “ammunition”.
Polish authorities further claim that Belarusian security forces fire into the air to force the migrants to advance.
Belarusian authorities claim that it is the Polish border guards who violate international law by violently forcing migrants back.
Meanwhile, many migrants, including women and children, find themselves locked in these forests.
According to the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Thursday “emergency humanitarian aid” such as blankets, winter clothing and diapers for the children could be delivered.
Lithuania, which also sees migrants beginning to reach its border with Belarus, called for the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to evacuate migrants to the Belarusian city of Grodno, with an airport, and take them “home”.
Ukraine, also bordering Belarus, announced Thursday that it will deploy thousands of guards to the border.
According to the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, 10 migrants have died in the area since the start of the crisis.
Poland it deployed 15,000 military personnel to the border, placed a wire fence and approved the construction of a wall.
On Thursday, the country’s authorities reported 468 attempts to cross the border in the last hours, including a group of 150 people.
This crisis has been brewing for weeks. Since August, Poland has recorded 32,000 attempts to enter its territory illegally, 17,000 of them in October.
In Sokolka, a Polish city located about 15 kilometers from the border, the authorities are on alert and stop vehicles to verify that they are not transporting migrants, AFP confirmed.
Many inhabitants support the firm position of his government. “I’m afraid that they could happen and the consequences it could bring,” said Henryk Lenkiewicz, a 67-year-old retiree.
Others, like activist Anna Chmielewska, try to help migrants who made it through. “They are getting more and more tired and have less and less hope of success,” he said.