Poland Increases Security on Border with Belarus after Threat of Migrants Increases
Poland is stepping up security measures on its border with Belarus (the European Union's eastern border) after reports that a large group of migrants in Belarus have headed to a checkpoint on the Polish-Belarusian border, world news agencies reported, citing official sources.
Border Service spokeswoman Evelina Szczepanska said the number of border guards, police and soldiers at the border has increased. She noted that videos posted on the internet show migrants advancing to the Kużnica border crossing in northeastern Poland.
Polish security spokesman Stanislaw Zharin posted a video on Twitter showing several hundred people walking along the road.
"There is a lot of disturbing information from the border. A large group of migrants has gathered in Belarus, near the border with Poland. They are heading to the border with Poland. They will try to infiltrate Poland en masse," spokesman Jarin said on Twitter.
"New information we have received shows that the group is under the strict control of armed Belarusians. They decide in which direction to take the group," he added in another tweet.
"The Polish services are prepared for any possible situation," wrote Maciej Wonszyk, deputy interior minister.
Footage also posted on Twitter by the Belarusian opposition group Nexta shows groups of hundreds of people in warm clothes and backpacks walking along the road. The signal signs along the road are in Belarusian.
Belarusian border guards have confirmed that at the moment, a large group of refugees carrying personal belongings is moving on the highway to the border with Poland.
The EU accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of organizing a wave of migrants and refugees, mainly from the Middle East, to try to enter the bloc's territory. According to the EU, Belarus is acting in response to sanctions imposed on it by Brussels following the brutal repression of the opposition by the Lukashenko regime.
Migrants and refugees say they were forced to cross the border by Belarusian officials and were subsequently pushed into Belarusian territory by Polish authorities. At least 10 migrants have died so far in the region, 7 of them on the Polish side of the border, according to the Polish newspaper Gazeta Viborcza.
Lithuania has said it is moving troops to its border with Belarus to prepare for a possible influx of migrants, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotayte was quoted as saying. The Lithuanian government will also discuss whether to declare a state of emergency on the border with Belarus, she added. So far, Lithuanian authorities have not said how many troops will be stationed at the border and exactly where they will be.
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