The refugee battle with Belarus has intensified after Poland’s leader accused the country of attempting to deliberately destabilise Europe.
The West has blamed Belarus for creating the crisis by flying in mainly Iraqi migrants and taking them to the border with promises of an easy crossing into the European Union. It has been suggested Afghan refugees will also be involved.
While the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has admitted that it was “absolutely possible” his forces had helped people cross into the EU he has denied orchestrating the operation.
But Poland’s prime minister has vehemently criticised Belarus, calling the crisis the “greatest attempt to destabilise Europe” since the Cold War.
Mateusz Morawiecki issued his rebuke as he met EU leaders to address the problem, and he warned it could spread to Germany, France and Spain.
“Lukashenko launched a hybrid war against the EU. This is the greatest attempt to destabilise Europe in 30 years,” Mr Morawiecki wrote on Twitter.
“Poland will not yield to blackmail and will do everything to defend the EU's borders.”
He also claimed that Mr Lukashenko had the “back-room support of Vladimir Putin,” the Russian president and ally of the Belarusian regime.
Minsk has denied the claims, instead criticising the EU for not taking in the migrants.
Caught in the middle, the migrants have been forced to cross the border by Belarus officials only to be pushed back by the Polish authorities.
That appears to have continued this weekend after Polish border guards prevented another crossing. “On Saturday … a group of about 100 very aggressive foreigners, brought to the border by Belarusian servicemen, tried to enter Poland by force,” Polish officials said on Twitter.
Speaking alongside the Lithuanian prime minister on Sunday, Mr Morawiecki said the crisis was an attempt to breach the EU and Nato’s eastern border, and that both Russian and Belarusian officials were in contact with Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
“Most likely, there will be an attempt to use the crisis in Afghanistan as another instalment of the migration crisis,” he warned.
Despite Belarus clearing the camps close to its EU frontier earlier this week and promising to return migrants to the Middle East, Minsk is accused of continuing to send lorry-loads of people to the border.
It is estimated that at least 10 migrants have died in freezing winter conditions.