European Union foreign ministers are expected to approve measures to widen sanctions on Belarus, including the targeting of national airlines and even travel agents identified as facilitating the mass transit of Middle East asylum seekers toward EU borders. The fresh sanctions come days after President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to cut off natural gas supplies which run through Belarus to Europe - a threat which Russia immediately distanced itself from.
Poland's Defense Ministry on Monday decried that "More and more groups of migrants are being brought to the Kuznica border crossing by Belarusian forces," which appeared to be confirmed in the latest videos widely circulating on social media. Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik said there are currently "thousands of migrants" at the crossing, with officials still warning about the prospect of armed confrontation. On this note, some newly emerged videos appear to show shots fired at the border...
Polish Defence Ministry has published a video showing shots (most likely blanks) being fired from the Belarusian side. pic.twitter.com/8fXC2NrO4u— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) November 15, 2021
Countries neighboring Belarus to the west and south have already declared states of emergencies at their borders, with Latvia at the start of this week launching a previously unannounced military exercise across from Belarus. The Latvian Army has reportedly deployed 3,000 troops for the drill which is meant to send a message to Minsk.
"We cannot exclude that part of these (migrant) groups will move further north and can reach the Latvian border. We’re ready for it," Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said on state TV.
Belarus stands accused of orchestrating a provocation and crisis at the border with EU states as retaliation for prior Western sanctions. Given Monday's EU implementation of yet further punitive sanctions, it's likely Lukashenko will in turn escalate - whether through the staging of his own military drills, or sending more large migrant caravans to the border.
Over the weekend Putin urged Belarus not to shut off Russian gas flows, given especially Moscow is already under the microscope and scrutiny as Nord Stream 2 faces in the final phase of German and EU regulatory approval.
Polish border guard published the first video from the Polish side. A thick line of servicemen and a helicopter to monitor the situation. pic.twitter.com/ojovndeUfn— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) November 15, 2021
In particular the new EU sanctions have been described as designed to prevent the largescale movement of migrants into Europe. "We need to make sure that no planes with people with the intention to migrate should land in Belarusian airports," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis reporters just ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
The migrants themselves have been 'weaponized' by Belarus, European officials say, which has led to a few reported deaths in the freezing temperatures and harsh conditions of makeshift tent settlements just meters from the border with Poland.
The video gives a good idea of what the situation at the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing looks right now. The crowd doesn’t fit on the road, lots of migrants have to wait behind the fence. pic.twitter.com/G9nCECIg9T— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) November 15, 2021
Meanwhile, as the above videos show, increasingly large groups of migrants appear to be gathering at key crossings, leading the Polish Interior Ministry to conclude that they are preparing to storm the gate:
"Illegal migrants gather at the border crossing in Kuznica on the Belarusian side. With the support of the Belarusian security officials, they are probably preparing for a forceful crossing of the border. Border guard officers, police and soldiers are ready," the ministry tweeted.
Germany and others among EU leadership have agreed, saying that Belarus is attempting to force a confrontation.
A wave of people has smashed the fence (not the border one). There really is a lot of people, the column stretched for about 1 kilometre, some people are still leaving the camp. pic.twitter.com/QdnNPa8uW0— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) November 15, 2021
What we witnessed at the Belarus-Poland border this morning as all the migrants from the camp moved right up to the razor wire. The EU believes Belarus is using migrants as a political weapon to spark a humanitarian crisis on its doorstep. @mattgodtv @BBCWillVernon pic.twitter.com/3NC3JMQWaB— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) November 15, 2021
"I think Poland has enough sobriety and understanding not to let dragging itself into forced clashes. We need to clearly state that the problems that exist there on the border emanate not from Poland but from Minsk, from [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko. Therefore, Poland deserves our solidarity," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said before going into a meeting of EU foreign ministers Monday.