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Poland Says Belarusian Soldiers 'Threatened To Fire' On Border Troops

An Iraqi migrant woman with children sits on the ground as they are surrounded by Polish border guards and police officers in Hajnowka after crossing into Poland from Belarus.

Belarusian soldiers bringing illegal migrants to the border of Poland "threatened to open fire" on Polish troops, the Poland’s Defense Ministry said on November 4, in what it described as the latest attempt by Minsk to escalate the situation at the frontier.

The incident comes as thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa in recent months have attempted to illegally enter Poland and fellow EU members Latvia and Lithuania from Belarus.

The EU accuses Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka of flying in migrants and funneling them to the bloc's borders to retaliate against Brussels for sanctions imposed over a sweeping crackdown on the political opposition, civil society, and independent media since last year’s disputed presidential election.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said that on November 3 Polish soldiers located around 250 migrants near a border fence and Belarusian troops “guarding them, threatened to open fire on our soldiers.”

“The actions of Belarusian soldiers looked like an attempt to escalate the situation, but also an attempt to conceal the fact that a group of migrants had entered the territory of [the] Republic of Poland,” the Defense Ministry said.

A day earlier, Poland accused Belarus of staging an armed “intrusion” when unidentified uniformed men crossed into its territory overnight on November 1-2. The ministry summoned the Belarusian charge d'affaires to protest “deliberate escalation” on the border.

In response, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry said it had made a "strong protest" to a Polish diplomat over claims of the border breach.

"Belarus has never provoked and does not intend to provoke border incidents, therefore it categorically rejects such provocations," the Foreign Ministry said in a November 4 statement.

Poland has imposed a state of emergency at the border, put up razor wire, and increased the number of soldiers and guards to stem the flow of migrants crossing from Belarus. Lawmakers last week also approved the building of a $407 million wall on its eastern border.

Last month, the Polish Border Guards said Belarusian forces fired shots -- possibly blank ammunition -- at its soldiers. In other cases, Poland accused Belarusian forces of destroying a razor-wire barrier on the border or encouraging migrants to do so.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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