Poland Turns Water Cannon on Rock-Throwing Migrants at Border

WARSAW (Reuters) -
A man breaks a fence, as migrants attempt to cross the Belarusian-Polish border at Bruzgi – Kuznica checkpoint in the Grodno region, Belarus on Tuesday. (Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS)

Polish security forces turned water cannon on migrants who threw rocks from across the Belarusian border, where thousands have gathered in chaotic attempts to reach the European Union, video footage shared by authorities showed on Tuesday.

The crisis has led the EU to prepare further sanctions against Belarus, which it accuses of attempting to destabilize the bloc by pushing migrants across the border illegally.

Footage shared by a Polish government spokesperson and the Ministry of Defense showed a further escalation of the crisis at the border, where migrants have assembled in growing numbers on the Belarusian side in the last week.

“Attention, attention, if you don’t follow orders, force will be used against you,” said a loudspeaker message directed at migrants throwing objects, according to the footage, which was shown on public broadcaster TVP.

Migrants were also shown throwing bottles and logs at the border fence and Polish soldiers, and using sticks to try to break the border fence in the footage shared by the Polish government.

The Interior Ministry said a policeman was seriously injured by an object thrown across the border and was in hospital with a suspected fractured skull.

The EU says Belarus is encouraging migrants to cross the border in revenge for earlier sanctions over a crackdown on protests last year against President Alexander Lukashenko’s contested reelection.

Belarus, a close Russian ally, said assertions it had fueled the border crisis were “absurd.”

Poland’s Ministry of Defense said in a tweet that Belarusian authorities had given migrants sound grenades to throw at Polish soldiers and border guards.

Earlier on Tuesday, Poland’s ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said armed conflict was not expected at the moment.

“We have a hybrid war, but an actual war, with arms, is not on our horizon. We are facing an unpredictable enemy,” Kaczynski told Polish public radio.

In the meantime, Iraq has scheduled an evacuation flight from Minsk on Thursday. So far about 150 to 200 Iraqis already in Minsk have registered to fly home.

Other Iraqis at the border have struggled to register. “We are working on this with the Belarusian authorities,” said Iraq’s consul for Russia and Belarus, Majid al-Kinani.

“The number is fluctuating, because people are stuck on the Belarusian border with Poland or Lithuania and so far they have not been authorized to go back to Minsk by the Belarusian authorities,” the consul said.

In Lithuania authorities said the situation was under control, with a deputy interior minister saying that they had caught 47 people who had attempted to approach the border.