Group of 50 people break through Belarus border, Polish police say

A group of about 50 people broke through defences on Poland’s border with Belarus on Saturday and entered near the village of Starzyna, Polish police have said, as the situation on the frontier becomes increasingly tense.

Thousands of migrants, many of them refugees, have travelled to Belarus in the hope of crossing into the European Union, only to find themselves trapped on the border.

The EU has accused Minsk of orchestrating the crisis to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions imposed by Brussels, but Belarus has repeatedly denied this. Some countries in the region have warned that the standoff could escalate into a military conflict.

“Yesterday, before 5pm, about 50 people broke into Poland near Starzyna,” police said on Twitter.

All of the people were caught by Polish uniformed services and brought back to the border, a border guard spokesperson told the Polish state news agency PAP.

In total, the Polish border guard agency said there were 223 attempts on Saturday to illegally cross the border and that it expected another “big attempt”.

The police also said the helmet of an officer serving at the border was damaged after a stone was thrown at him.

The spokesperson for Poland’s security services, Stanisław Żaryn, wrote on Twitter on Sunday about reports of trucks carrying stones and rubble from Belarusian construction companies to areas near the border.

EU foreign ministers are to widen sanctions on Belarus on Monday to include airlines and travel agencies that are thought to have been involved in bringing migrants to the bloc’s border, said the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

Two diplomats said on Thursday that the EU is considering imposing sanctions on Belarus’s main airport in a bid to make it more difficult for airlines to bring in migrants.

“We will give the green light to extending the legal framework of our sanctions against Belarus so that it can be applied to everyone who participates in smuggling migrants to this country,” Borrell told the French weekend newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

He added that executives at airlines and travel agencies could be hit with travel bans and asset freezes in the EU. About 30 Belarusian government officials thought to be involved in the crisis could also be targeted with sanctions, Borrell said.

The Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, who is already under international sanctions for cracking down on protests, has threatened to retaliate against any new measures, including by shutting down the transit of natural gas.


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