WARSAW, Poland (AP) – The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned Belarus’ top diplomat to the country on Friday after Polish authorities alleged Belarusian forces fired – possibly blank – at the Polish troops along their common border.
The incident marks an escalation of tensions along the Belarus-Poland border, which is also part of the European Union’s eastern border. The Polish government accuses Belarus of encouraging people from the Middle East and Africa to migrate to the EU in large numbers by entering Poland.
Polish forces have responded in many cases by pushing migrants back across the border to Belarus. Some asylum seekers have also died while caught between the two countries.
Anna Michalska, spokeswoman for the Polish border guards, said on Thursday that Belarusian forces had fired at Polish troops across the European Union’s eastern border. She did not specify the forces.
Michalska said no one was injured and blank ammunition was most likely used. She said the guards were under increasing pressure and stress due to an increasing number of incidents involving objects thrown at Polish servicemen on the Belarusian side.
The area along the border is restricted under the state of emergency that Poland imposed in early September, and neither journalists nor human rights defenders can monitor the situation there. It was not possible to independently verify the claims of the Polish authorities.
The Polish state-run press agency PAP reported that the Belarusian charge d’affaires had been summoned for the case, quoting Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina.
PAP also reported that Belarusian charge d’affaires Alaksandr Czasnouski told reporters as he left the meeting that “the information about the gunfire is false.”
In Belarus, State Border Guard Committee spokesman Anton Bychkovsky rejected the gunfire allegation, saying Belarusian border guards had not used weapons for the past 24 hours. hours, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.
Bychkovsky said the committee formally asked Polish authorities to clarify their claim, Tass said.
EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have fortified their borders in response to illegal immigration from Belarus. They allege that the Moscow-backed Belarusian government is organizing and encouraging people to enter EU territory as part of a “hybrid war” in retaliation for Western sanctions against the authoritarian government in Minsk.
Meanwhile, tensions are also mounting in Poland, where some Poles accuse the government of inhumane treatment of migrants. During a demonstration Friday, activists threw red paint symbolizing blood on the grounds of the parliament in Warsaw.
The action was “a gesture of solidarity with the refugees dying at the border,” activist Marcin Mycielski said.
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