Belarus changes tactics on border crisis with Poland

Poland said Belarus changed tactics in the border crisis by now directing smaller groups of people to multiple points along the European Union’s eastern frontier.

Though there have been signs of the crisis easing, the defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said he expected the border showdown to continue for some time.

Polish border guards reported new attempted crossings by several groups mostly consisting of dozens of people, although there was one crowd of 200 people hurling rocks and using teargas.

“We have to prepare for the fact that this problem will continue for months. I have no doubt that that will be the case,” Błaszczak told the commercial RMF FM radio station.

“Now a bit of a new method has been taken on by the migrants and Belarusian services … Smaller groups of people are trying to cross the border in many places,” he said.

He added that “there is no question that these attacks are directed by Belarusian services”.

The west accuses Belarus of artificially creating the crisis by bringing in people and taking them to the border with promises of an easy crossing into the EU.

Belarus has denied the claim, instead criticising the EU for not taking in the migrants.

The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, told BBC on Friday that it was “absolutely possible” his forces had helped people cross into the EU but denied orchestrating the operation.

“We’re Slavs. We have hearts. Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany… Maybe someone helped them,” he said. “But I didn’t invite them here.”

There were indications this week that the crisis was abating after several hundred people were repatriated to Iraq, while 2,000 others left a makeshift border encampment for a nearby warehouse.

Polish media say at least 11 people have died since the crisis began over the summer.

Poland held a burial for a Syrian teenager who drowned in the Bug River on the border this week and two other funerals are planned for the weekend.