Poland's border police announced Sunday that about 50 migrants have made it across the border into the EU from Belarus after forcing their way through fences and barriers, amid a standoff which has seen multiple thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers set up camps just meters from Polish guards.
"Yesterday, before 5 p.m., around 50 people broke into Poland near Starzyna," Podlaska police said Sunday. "All of the people were caught by Polish uniformed services and brought back to the border, Border Guard spokeswoman Katarzyna Zdanowicz told Polish state news agency PAP," France24 details of the statement.
Police spokesperson Tomasz Krupa noted that the group of mostly Iraqi nationals had crossed the border "by force". This came after police recorded a total of 223 attempts to illegally enter Poland on Saturday alone. Police say they are imminently expecting another "big attempt" after videos in past days have emerged showing increasingly violent and risky tactics of migrants being used to tear down the fence, including throwing stones at Polish border police.
European officials have continued blaming the Alexander Lukashenko government for orchestrating the crisis as revenge for recent Western sanctions on Minsk. This includes recent reports of Belarusian agents handing out weapons for the migrants to confront Polish security, including tear gas canisters to hurl at the Polish side.
The latest incident involved the following: "The spokesman for Poland’s security services Stanislaw Zaryn wrote on Twitter on Sunday about reports of trucks carrying stones and rubble from Belarusian construction companies to areas near the border," according to France24. A police official had described that "A stone hit the helmet of one officer. Fortunately, the policeman didn’t require hospitalization."
On Sunday Poland's Prime Minister called on NATO to take urgent action responding to the crisis:
NATO must take "concrete steps" to resolve the migrant crisis on the Belarus border, the Polish prime minister was quoted as saying on Sunday, adding that Poland, Lithuania and Latvia may ask for consultations under Article 4 of the alliance's treaty.
Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed in on the crisis, following some European officials pointing the finger at Moscow for aiding Belarus in creating a border provocation:
"We are ready to contribute to this in every way possible, if, of course, something will depend on us," Putin said, speaking in an interview with Russian television on Sunday.
"I learned about what's taking place on the Polish-Belarusian border in the media. I never discussed this issue with [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko before. I spoke to him twice, only after this crisis began," Putin said, when asked to comment on claims made by some Western officials and media that Russia is responsible for the crisis.
He then directly addressed the accusations coming out of the EU: "Therefore, when we hear statements or allegations in our direction, I would like to tell everyone: deal with your internal problems, and don't try to pass questions which should be resolved by your own appropriate departments onto someone else," he stressed.
In particular Russian airline Aeroflot is accused alongside Belarusian carriers of facilitating the mass movement of Middle East migrants from their home countries to Minsk. Putin said in the interview that if this were the case, Aeroflot didn't know about it and conducts international travel as usual.
"They themselves created the conditions for thousands and hundreds of thousands of people to travel their way. And now they're looking to find the guilty party in order to absolve themselves of responsibility for the events," Putin said, speaking of the EU. "What does Aeroflot have to do with it? Has even one Aeroflot plane transported anyone? I have no idea, but, possibly, someone could have used some kind of planes and come through third countries. What do we have to do with anything? I'll repeat: this is an attempt to remove one's own responsibility for those events which are currently taking place."