Tensions are high in Eastern Europe over thousands of migrants from war-torn countries in the Middle East that are attempting to enter Poland and other EU countries from Belarus. Now, Belarus’ neighbors are warning the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation.
The defense ministers from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia issued a joint statement warning of a potential military clash. “This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spill over into the military domain,” the statement said.
The EU has accused Belarus of purposely sending the migrants to its borders as retaliation for EU sanctions. At the UN Security Council on Thursday, the US, France, Estonia, Norway, Ireland, and Britain accused Belarus of “orchestrating” the crisis.
“We condemn the orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings whose lives and wellbeing have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus, with the objective of destabilizing neighboring countries and the European Union’s external border,” the Western countries said in a statement.
Russia has also been accused of transporting migrants to Belarus and to the border. When asked if Russia or Belarus was helping move the migrants, Russia’s deputy UN Ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, said, “No, absolutely not.”
On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that the EU was considering sanctioning the Russian airline Aeroflot for allegedly transporting migrants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday strongly denied the accusation against Aeroflot and said the idea of sanctioning the airline was “crazy.” In a show of support for Minsk, Russia flew bombers over Belarus on Wednesday and Thursday.
Ukraine announced Thursday that it is beefing up its military presence at its border with Belarus by sending an additional 8,500 troops and 15 helicopters to prevent migrants from trying to enter the country.