By George Gourlay | Contributor
Delegates from the European Union and the US have urged the UN Security Council to take action against Belarus for what they believe to be an orchestrated attempt to destabilise the EU border. Lukashenko’s government has been accused of mobilising over 2,000 migrants out of Belarus and into Poland, seemingly in response to earlier sanctions placed on Belarus by the EU.
Last week, the EU, alongside other Western delegates, issued a statement to the security council in New York, strongly condemning Belarus for “the orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings whose lives and wellbeing have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus”. They continued: “It demonstrates how the Lukashenko regime has become a threat to regional stability.”
According to the EU, Lukashenko has allowed refugees from the Middle East to fly to Belarus’ capital, Minsk. From there, they have journeyed to the Polish border in a desperate attempt to reach the EU and its protection. The Belarusian state airline, Belavia, has denied any such activity and has ceased allowing citizens of Iraq, Yemen, and Syria onto its flights between Turkey and Belarus, in line with requests from Turkish authorities.
Regardless, thousands of migrants, consisting mainly of Kurds from the Middle East, have been put in danger upon arriving at the Polish border. To the backdrop of an ominous looped recording blasting out: “Attention! Attention! Crossing the Polish border is legal only at border crossings”, the migrants have been met by border guards and the army as they cut through barbed wire fences to enter EU territory.
With overnight temperatures dropping to freezing in recent weeks, at least seven have been reported to have died from hypothermia. Polish authorities have issued a state of emergency which has blocked any aid reaching the migrants who are now trapped in refugee camps along the border.
Tension between Belarus and the EU was already high following sanctions placed on the Lukashenko regime as a result of his crackdown on protestors in 2020. The country became the subject of international condemnation last year following the Belarusian government’s rejection of the country’s election results which saw the opposition candidate win a majority of the votes.
Now, the EU and its allies have alleged that the crisis at the border is a tactic by Lukashenko with whom they charge of having “the objective of destabilising neighbouring countries and the European Union’s external border…”, going on to claim that the president’s trafficking of migrants across the EU border is all in an effort of “diverting attention away from its own increased human rights violations”.
Standing in Lukashenko’s defence is Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin rejected the claims thrown at Belarus though made clear that there was no partnership between Moscow and Minsk in regard to creating a migrant crisis. Russia has, however, been showing its support through staged military practice operations, sending two nuclear-capable strategic bombers into Belarus’ airspace, an unsubtle hint to the EU of the consequences of further actions.
However, actions were taken by the EU on Monday with the issuing of new sanctions, their fifth set against the country in the last year, despite Lukashenko’s threat to cut off gas deliveries to the bloc.
Poland’s hardline response has contradicted the EU’s usual humanitarian rhetoric. The situation has appeared to highlight the challenges of a unified response between members of opposing values of which Poland has made clear in recent months with talks of its secession from the union. With the EU’s already strained relationship with Poland, it seems that a solution to the current situation is unlikely to emerge for the foreseeable future as neither the EU nor Belarus show any signs of backing down.