Poland said the migrants were quickly identified and arrested near the village of Bialowieza, before being returned to the Belarusian border.
They were carrying wire-cutting instruments, a spokesperson for the Polish border service said. The two sides accuse each other of inhumane treatment of some 4,000 migrants who try to cross the border with the European Union.
Growing hostility prompted Poland to warn that the migrant crisis could end in a military confrontation, as the situation alarmed the entire EU.
EU leaders say the crisis is fabricated by authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko and that they are on the verge of imposing new sanctions on Minsk following previous actions over human rights violations.
Mr. Lukashenko – improbably – claims he does not have the tools to intervene.
On Wednesday morning, Polish authorities released video footage showing what they claimed was evidence of violence on the part of the Belarusian side.
The video appears to show officers beating migrants, before firing warning shots amid screams and screams. In response, Belarusian authorities offered their own video footage, which showed four Kurdish migrants allegedly beaten by Polish guards as they attempted to cross the border.
With journalists and activists barred from access to border areas on both sides, it is difficult to verify the details of a desperate humanitarian situation.
According to international migration law, they have the right to seek asylum at the Polish border. The situation is however unprecedented and Poland has refused such requests and sent people back.
The coming winter and sub-zero temperatures seem to encourage migrants to take matters into their own hands. Gazhar Askerov, a leader of the Kurdish community in Russia, has been in contact with hundreds of migrants.
He says the vast majority of them are fleeing the ruins of the Civil War and Isis, but few are prepared for the situation they find themselves in – camping outside without the warm clothes and food they need to survive.
“I can’t keep up with the volume of calls for help I’m getting,” he said. “These people are hostages of politics.
Askerov, who was in Belarus two weeks ago, says Belarusian passage to Europe was popularized by social media apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. Few of those who stay at home understand the details.
The start of the journey is quite simple: the migrants fly to Minsk, and from there are transported by car to the border with Poland. They walk the last kilometers, before being allowed to cross the border by Belarusian guards. The problems begin once they pass Belarusian officers, who refuse to allow them to return after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border.
“The poor are caught in the crossfire,” Askerov says. “The men who can physically bear to stay outside keep trying to stay at the border for days on end. The others must find a way to escape.
Askerov and dit The independent that he encountered a group of migrants in Minsk who had been forced to break through the Belarusian army lines by crawling 300 meters and then walking for 17 hours.
“There were five-year-old girls and 65-year-old men in the group,” he said. “Everyone suffered from it at the end, with swollen legs and other injuries like that. ”
On Tuesday evening Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the migrant emergency. He did not provide specific evidence for his claims.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded by calling the accusations “unacceptable”.
Either way, German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday called on Moscow to exert influence over Belarus over the crisis.
Russia has sent two strategic bombers for flights over Belarus, the RIA news agency said on Wednesday. Tu-22M3 bombers patrolled the airspace and helped test Belarus and Russia’s joint air defense system.
Ministers from EU countries would meet later today to determine their collective response. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he would push for additional sanctions.
“Lukashenko continues to turn a dangerous spiral of escalation from which he has no way out for himself,” Maas said in a statement on Wednesday morning. “We will punish anyone who participates in the targeted smuggling of migrants. Lukashenko must realize that his calculation is not working.
Wednesday’s escalation comes after months of latent tensions, with more migrants heading to Belarus and its border with the EU since May. Local reports suggest that Minsk is facilitating this by easily providing Belarusian visas to migrants and helping them get to the border.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia said Belarusian authorities chaperoned dozens of migrants every day to unofficial crossing points at the EU border.
Belarus reportedly seeks revenge and pressure Europe for various sanctions following Lukashenko’s disputed victory in 2020 elections, violent crackdown on protesters and arrest of journalist dissident aboard a Ryanair flight landing in Minsk in May.