WARSAW – Poland’s prime minister said on Monday he saw no prospect of a let-up in tensions on the border with Belarus amid a surge in migration and upcoming Russian-led military exercises.
Poland declared a state of emergency in two regions bordering Belarus on Thursday following an increase in illegal migration that Warsaw has blamed on its neighbour, and in the build-up to this week’s ‘Zapad-2021′ drills.
Parliament is expected to formally approve the state of emergency – the first order of its kind since Poland’s communist days – later on Monday.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on all parties to back the measures which ban mass gatherings and limit people’s movements in a 3-km (2-mile) deep strip of land along the frontier for 30 days.
“We do not expect a decrease in tensions on the eastern border because in a few days the biggest military exercises in 40 years will start, ‘Zapad-2021′,” he told a news conference.
“We know that the Belarusian services provide migrants with food and help them at the border in their attempts to reach Poland illegally,” he said. Officials had arrested people suspected of working for the Belarusian state, he added.
Poland and the European Union have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging hundreds of migrants to cross into Polish territory to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions it has imposed on Minsk.
Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei last week dismissed the accusations and blamed “Western politicians” for the situation on the border.
Poland has also said it could face “provocations” during the “Zapad” or West military exercises. The main phase is due to start on Sept. 10.
Russia, which will join forces with Belarusian troops for the drills , says it is within its rights to exercise on its territory and is clear about the numbers involved.