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Belarus migrant crisis: Polish guards thwart two ‘massive attempts’ to cross the border

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Polish border guards have thwarted two ‘massive attempts’ to cross the border at night by stone-throwing migrants attempting to cross a railway line from Belarus.

Video showed guards with laser beams in their eyes and pelted with stones by a group of about 50 migrants trying to cross the border at night at Czeremcha, 70 miles south of where the main camp is located.

Dozens of smaller attempts were also made, with the Polish border service saying a total of 161 border crossings were stopped and 34 migrants were forcibly deported.

The situation remained tense early on Wednesday with thousands of migrants still camped close to the border at Kuznica – where violent clashes broke out on Tuesday – while others marched to an unknown location.

Presumably they are taken to temporary housing in nearby warehouses. Thousands of migrants were taken to similar shelters overnight.

Meanwhile, Mariusz Blaszczak, the country’s defense minister, warned that the crisis is likely to continue for months and that Poland must remain vigilant. “I hope it won’t take years,” he added.

Two large groups made ‘vigorous’ attempts to cross the Polish border last night, guards said, including 50 group of migrants who threw stones as they marched along a railway line (pictured)

Thousands of migrants remain close to Poland's border crossing at Kuznica today, after violent clashes with guards on Tuesday

Thousands of migrants remain close to Poland’s border crossing at Kuznica today, after violent clashes with guards on Tuesday

Smoke from campfire rises in the morning sky as thousands of migrants stand against the Polish border, waiting to cross

Smoke from campfire rises in the morning sky as thousands of migrants stand against the Polish border, waiting to cross

Guards from Belarus were spotted marching hundreds of migrants in waiting vans.  They are believed to be taken to nearby temporary shelters

Guards from Belarus were spotted marching hundreds of migrants in waiting vans. They are believed to be taken to nearby temporary shelters

Mr Blaszczak added that plans are also being drawn up for a permanent border wall to replace the current barbed wire barriers.

“We are doing everything we can to keep the border safe,” he added.

The EU accuses Belarus of creating the migrant crisis by luring thousands of vulnerable people into the country and then pushing them to the border and forcing them to cross illegally.

European leaders believe the move — which is being carried out with Moscow’s backing — aims to destabilize the bloc in revenge for sanctions against dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s regime.

Brussels is currently preparing two more rounds of sanctions against Lukashenko, including penalties for airlines and travel agents accused of helping people from the Middle East and Asia get into the country.

Polish Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said today: “Lukashenko has caused this problem at the border. Poland has no problem with the people of Belarus. It is the regime in Minsk that is the problem.

Lukashenko created this situation to try to destabilize Poland and the EU. He created this problem. He did that in response to the sanctions that the EU has imposed on his regime.’

Lukashenko denies the charges and says the migrants are legitimate asylum seekers and should be allowed entry.

The Belarusian strongman and Vladimir Putin have also expressed “concern” about a build-up of 15,000 Polish troops sent to the border to stop people.

While Poland has been the main focus of migrants crossing over, neighboring Latvia and Lithuania have also reported an increase in illegal crossings in recent months.

Even Estonia, which does not share a border with Belarus, has called up additional troops for fear that migrants could be forced out of Russia.

Some 1,700 reserve soldiers were called up on Wednesday for unannounced exercises, including laying barbed wire along Russia’s 25-mile border.

Hundreds of migrants spent the night in warehouses close to the border after being taken there by Belarusian guards

Hundreds of migrants spent the night in warehouses close to the border after being taken there by Belarusian guards

Migrants were given blankets and donated clothes in the warehouse, which is the first time they receive shelter from Belarus

Migrants were given blankets and donated clothes in the warehouse, which is the first time they receive shelter from Belarus

Aid workers temporarily distribute bedding to hundreds of migrants who were cleared from the border fence on Tuesday and taken to a nearby warehouse

Aid workers temporarily distribute bedding to hundreds of migrants who were cleared from the border fence on Tuesday and taken to a nearby warehouse

Young children are seen sleeping in a warehouse near the Belarus-Poland border after being given temporary shelter

Young children are seen sleeping in a warehouse near the Belarus-Poland border after being given temporary shelter

“What is happening in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia also requires a strengthening of border infrastructure in Estonia,” said Border Guard chief Elmar Vaher.

There are also fears that Lukashenko could push migrants to Ukraine, which is not an EU member but is involved in a long-standing clash with Russia.

The migrant crisis is unfolding as Kiev warns that thousands of Russian troops, tanks and artillery pieces are gathering at the border in what the government says is a coordinated effort to sever alliances in Europe.

Under pressure from the EU, several airlines have said they will now stop transporting potential migrants to Belarus.

Iraq has also said it will begin the voluntary repatriation of its citizens from Belarus this week and the EU border agency Frontex is working with Polish and Iraqi authorities to arrange charter flights from Poland.

Lukashenko, who has crushed opposition to his rule for nearly three decades in power, discussed the crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

It was his first telephone conversation with a Western leader since he cracked down on mass protests against his rule last year.

French President Emmanuel Macron also spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to try to defuse the crisis.

Russia on Wednesday welcomed direct talks between EU and Belarus officials about a migrant crisis at the Polish border.

“It is very important that contacts have been established between representatives of the EU and the leaders of Belarus,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the issue with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.

Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland's defense minister, has warned that the crisis is likely to last for months and could drag on for years.

Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland’s defense minister, has warned that the crisis is likely to last for months and could drag on for years.

Migrants gather in a camp at the Bruzgi - Kuznica checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border

Migrants gather in a camp at the Bruzgi – Kuznica checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border

Thousands of people camped for days in frigid conditions with little access to food or water as they tried to enter Poland

Thousands of people camped for days in frigid conditions with little access to food or water as they tried to enter Poland

Migrants gather around a campfire at night on the Belarusian side of the Polish border

Migrants gather around a campfire at night on the Belarusian side of the Polish border

Russian President Vladimir Putin had called on the West to speak directly with his ally Lukashenko, who has become increasingly isolated since he violently suppressed opposition protests last year.

Merkel called Lukashenko on Monday to discuss the situation at the border between Poland and Belarus, where thousands of migrants have gathered in a crisis the EU attributes to Minsk.

It was Lukashenko’s first telephone conversation with a Western leader since last year’s protests, which erupted over an election the EU believes had been rigged.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell had also discussed the crisis with Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.

The Kremlin said Putin and Lukashenko discussed “possible solutions” to the crisis on Tuesday.

Poland and Brussels allege that Lukashenko caused the crisis and lured migrants from the Middle East to the EU in revenge for sanctions against his regime over the protests.

Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died on both sides of the border since the beginning of the summer and have called for a humanitarian response to the crisis.

The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatovic visited areas near the border on the Polish side and said on Tuesday the situation was “extremely dangerous”.

“We need to find a way to de-escalate, to make sure the focus is really on stopping the suffering,” she told reporters.

Russian state television on Wednesday showed hundreds of migrants in an indoor center set up by Belarusian authorities near the border, where families with young children were spending the night.

The Belarusian Ministry of Health said it had hospitalized six people, including four children, from the Bruzgi camp.

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