Violence erupted at the Poland-Belarus border on Tuesday, as migrants desperate to cross into the European Union threw stones at Polish border guards who responded with water cannon and tear gas.
Polish and Belarusian authorities have blamed one another for the ratcheting of tensions on the border, where thousands of people have travelled in the hope of making it into the EU only to find themselves stuck in freezing conditions.
The Polish Border Guard said Tuesday that migrants camped out near the Kuźnica-Bruzgi border crossing were behaving “aggressively,” throwing stones and various objects at the Polish services. “In order to prevent illegal border crossing, water cannons were used against aggressive foreigners,” the security agency said on Twitter.
Poland's Ministry of Defense shared footage on Twitter showing Polish officers and soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder with riot shields as rocks were lobbed over the barbed-wire border fence, describing the scene as an “attack of migrants.” The ministry also accused Belarusian services of equipping migrants with “stun grenades.”
The spokesperson for Poland's security services, Stanisław Żaryn, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday about the clashes, describing migrants as “storming the border.”
On the Belarusian side, there were chaotic scenes as crowds of migrants could be seen breaking up concrete blocks and gathering tree branches to throw toward the Polish side of the crossing. Women and children have been moved back from the border fence, and men, many of them voicing their anger, were amassing.
“We are fighting to stay alive,” one man told CNN.
An attempt to break through the border with Poland near the Bruzgi border crossing is reported. They say that the migrants used a gas canister against Polish border guards, hence the reaction. The information has not been confirmed.@motolkohelp pic.twitter.com/RoGn1q4CKL
— Voices from Belarus (@VoicesBelarus) November 15, 2021
Lukashenko to discuss migrant situation with Merkel
Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko said he has spoken with Angela Merkel about the migrant crisis at the Polish border and will hold another call with the German Chancellor soon.
The President's Office said in a statement that Lukashenko made a proposal on how to deal with the situation and that the two leaders would speak again once Merkel had raised the issue with EU member states.
“There are more than 2,100 (migrants) and maybe even more, who are concentrated at the Bruzgi border crossing. You know that they have set up camp there, 800 meters from this crossing, and were constantly there for a week. Yesterday they took off and walked 800 meters and filled up the Bruzgi border crossing. This is the biggest problem,” Alexander Lukashenko told the German chancellor, according to the readout.
“I know that there have already been attempts to deliver weapons to the migrant camp. As well as provocations that can lead to a violent conflict. In no case should this be allowed. This so-called problem cannot become the unleashing of a heated confrontation,” he said.