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World: Russia has 'nothing to do with' Poland-Belarus border crisis, Putin insists

Crisis worsens on Poland-Belarus border as migrants congregate and troops are mobilized

  Crisis worsens on Poland-Belarus border as migrants congregate and troops are mobilized Tensions are escalating on the border between Poland and Belarus, after Polish officials again accused their neighbor of helping move migrants toward the frontier, and warned that thousands of additional military personnel have been mobilized to respond to confrontations. © Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken on November 8, 2021 shows Poland's law enforcement officers watching migrants at the Belarusian-Polish border. - Poland on November 8 said hundreds of migrants in Belarus were descending on its border aiming to force their way into the EU member in what NATO slammed as a deliberate tactic by Minsk.

Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Saturday that Russia has "absolutely nothing to do with" the ongoing crisis at the Poland-Belarus border, where thousands of people are stranded in desperate conditions.

A picture taken on November 12 shows migrants in a camp on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region. © Ramil Nasibulin/Belta/AFP/Getty Images A picture taken on November 12 shows migrants in a camp on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region.

The migrants -- most of whom are from the Middle East and Asia, and who are hoping to travel on from Poland deeper into Europe -- have been gathering on the Belarusian side of the border, where they are enduring bitter weather and a lack of food and medical attention.

Migrants camp out on Belarus-Poland border as tensions continue to escalate

  Migrants camp out on Belarus-Poland border as tensions continue to escalate Thousands of migrants have set up makeshift camps in freezing conditions near the border between Poland and Belarus, as concerns over the potential for violence intensified on Tuesday. © Yuri Shamshur/TASS/ZUMA Press Temperatures dropped below zero overnight Tuesday as migrants camped out on the border of Belarus with Poland. Poland has accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of attempting to orchestrate a crisis on the European Union's eastern frontier by funneling migrants to the border in retaliation for sweeping sanctions imposed on Minsk by the bloc and other Western powers in June.

Western leaders are accusing Belarus of manufacturing a migrant crisis on the EU's eastern frontier as retribution for sanctions over human rights abuses. President Alexander Lukashenko's government has repeatedly denied such claims, instead blaming the West for the crossings and accusing it of poor treatment of migrants.

Russia, Belarus' largest political and economic partner, continues to defend Minsk's handling of the border crisis while also denying any involvement in it.

"I want to tell you something else. I want everyone to know. We have absolutely nothing to do with it. Everyone is trying to impose responsibility on us for any reason and for no reason at all," Putin said in an interview aired Saturday by state broadcaster Russia 24.

The migrant crisis on the Poland-Belarus border explained

  The migrant crisis on the Poland-Belarus border explained Thousands of people are stranded at the border between Poland and Belarus in terrible conditions, trapped at the center of an intensifying geopolitical dispute. © Wojtek Radwankski/AFP/Getty Images Polish (foreground) and Belarusian (background) border guards stand next to migrants believed to be from Afghanistan sitting on the ground in the small village of Usnarz Gorny near Bialystok, northeastern Poland, located close to the border with Belarus, on August 20, 2021.

"Our aviation companies are not transporting these people. None of our companies are."

Putin added that Lukashenko also claimed not to have any sort of involvement through Belarus' national airline, Belavia.

"By the way, Belavia, as Alexander Grigorievich [Lukashenko] told me, is not transporting them either. They book charters, it's a visa-free entry -- people buy tickets and fly in. Yes, there are certain groups engaged in transporting these people to European countries, but they have been operating for a long time," Putin said.

Belarus Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said Friday that the Belarusian side was doing everything possible to reduce the flow of migrants.

Meanwhile, Poland has deployed 15,000 soldiers to the border to prevent illegal crossings, the Polish defense minister said Wednesday. Some 4,500 people have tried to cross the border since the start of this month, according to the Polish Border Guard.

Flights to Belarus Halted for Citizens in 3 Countries by Turkish Airlines Amid EU Pressure

  Flights to Belarus Halted for Citizens in 3 Countries by Turkish Airlines Amid EU Pressure The Turkish Civil Aviation Authority has stopped selling plane tickets for Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis to Minsk, a popular illegal EU entry point.This decision is a result of pressure from the EU to stop bringing people from the Middle East to Minsk, a convenient starting point to entering EU member nations like Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The border guard on Saturday accused Belarusian authorities of equipping migrants with tear gas.

"A group of about 100 migrants waited for the possibility of illegal border crossing. Belarusians equipped foreigners with tear gas, which was used towards the Polish services. This and subsequent attempts to illegally cross [the border] were prevented," the border guard said via Twitter. No photos or video were given to provide evidence for the allegations.

A group of migrants walk along the Belarusian-Polish border in Belarus' Grodno region on November 12, 2021. © Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP/Getty Images A group of migrants walk along the Belarusian-Polish border in Belarus' Grodno region on November 12, 2021.

The border guard added that overnight, near the Polish town of Czeremcha, Belarusian soldiers first "began to destroy the temporary border fence," then tore out fence posts and barbed wire with a service vehicle. It also repeated its claim that Belarusian authorities were using lasers and strobe lights against Polish security services at the border.

Each side has accused the other of spreading misinformation as the crisis has unfolded.

Tension mounts as soldiers and migrants mass at Belarus-Poland border

  Tension mounts as soldiers and migrants mass at Belarus-Poland border Belarus's Russian-backed leader insists he's "not seeking a fight," but Polish and European leaders accuse him of mounting a "hybrid attack," using innocent migrants as a weapon.There were unconfirmed reports of gunfire on Tuesday as tension soared in the months-long crisis between Russia-aligned Belarus, and EU and NATO member Poland. Military forces have entrenched on both sides of the border, and migrants desperate to reach EU soil are caught in the middle, in dire conditions.

Syrian man found dead

Meanwhile, thousands of people remain stuck between Poland and Belarus in conditions the United Nations has called "catastrophic." Desperate scenes of hunger and hypothermia are playing out in forests and at makeshift camps at the border as the geopolitical dispute intensifies.

Belarusian State Border Committee officials told CNN on Friday the migrant camp near the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing with Poland was expected to double in size within a week if the refugee crisis remains unresolved.

About 2,000 people are currently waiting in the border region but hundreds continue to show up daily, officials told CNN, and Belarusian state border officials estimate that figure will increase to 5,000 within a week.

The body of a young Syrian man was found Friday in the woods near the Poland-Belarus border close to Wólka Terechowska, about 80 miles to the south of Kuznica, according to a tweet from the Polish police.

"The activities carried out in the place where the body was found did not allow for an unequivocal determination of the cause of death," the police said.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski on Saturday called the growing crisis an "attack" on the European Union, of which Poland is a member state.

"We are dealing with an attack on the entire European Union using an artificially created migration crisis. It is about creating an East European migration route. Everyone knows that -- both in Europe and in the USA," he posted on Twitter.

Poland: Migrant camps along Belarus border have emptied

  Poland: Migrant camps along Belarus border have emptied WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities said Friday there are no more migrants camping along the Belarus side of the European Union’s eastern border, but attempts at illegally crossing into the bloc’s territory are continuing and becoming more aggressive. Around 50 migrants got through a fence into Poland on Thursday, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Border Guard said. They included a family of five who said they wanted to stay and live in Poland, opening a procedure toward settlement. The others will have to return to Belarus, Michalska said. Two other large groups of migrants were prevented from entering.

Kaminski added that he'd spoken to his German counterpart, Horst Seehofer, who Kaminski said had offered his support on the construction of a border wall.

US President Joe Biden told reporters Friday night that the situation at the Belarus-Poland border was of "great concern."

"We've communicated our concern to Russia. We've communicated our concern to Belarus. We think it's a problem," Biden said.

Military buildup

Russia demonstrated its support for Minsk by flying two long-range Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 supersonic long-range bombers over Belarusian airspace on Wednesday and on Thursday.

Neighboring Ukraine is also scaling up security. On Thursday, it announced it would hold military drills with some 8,500 servicemen and 15 helicopters in an area near its borders with Poland and Belarus to counter a potential migrant crisis.

The show of force unfolding across the region is continuing to test a fragile political order, with allegations from the United States on Russia's military buildup deepening concerns over the potential for a wider geopolitical crisis.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the US was "concerned by reports of unusual Russian military activity" and mentioned the possibility that Russia may be "attempting to rehash" its 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov hit back at the allegations on Friday, saying that they represented an "empty, groundless escalation of tensions."

In turn, Putin criticized "unscheduled" NATO drills in the Black Sea in the Russia 24 interview aired Saturday.

"It seems that they are simply keeping us on our toes. Well, they should know that we are on our toes," Putin said.

"The United States and its NATO allies are now conducting unscheduled -- I want to emphasize -- unscheduled exercises in the Black Sea. Not only a fairly powerful naval group has been formed, but aviation is also used in the course of these exercises, including strategic aviation," Putin said. "This is a serious challenge for us."

Belarus says it has helped more than 100 migrants leave .
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Belarusian authorities say they have helped more than 100 migrants leave the country on Monday and more are prepared to leave Tuesday, a statement that comes after almost two weeks of tensions at Belarus' border with Poland, where hundreds of migrants remain stuck. Belarus' Interior Ministry officials said Tuesday that 118 migrants flew out of the capital, Minsk, on Monday to their home countries after the ex-Soviet country's authorities “assisted them with paperwork and passing through the state border.

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