WARSAW, Poland — Polish police said Saturday that the body of a young Syrian man was found in the woods near the border with Belarus, the latest victim in a political standoff at the European Union’s eastern border.
Minsk’s regime has been encouraging illegal immigration across its borders into EU countries like Lithuania, Latvia and Poland for many months. The situation becomes more perilous as the winter nears.
Polish police said the body of a Syrian man about 20 years old was found a day earlier near the village of Wólka Terechowska. The police stated that the cause of death was not known and an autopsy will be conducted.
It brings the death toll now to at least nine reported victims in the migration encouraged by Belarus’ longtime President Alexander Lukashenko.
Many migrants originate from Syria or Iraq. These people are seeking refuge from conflict and helplessness in Europe.
Another point of tension is being created by the crisis between Belarus and West. This will also extend to Russia, which is its closest ally.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin denies any role in the creation and migration of European migrants, even though it sent paratroopers as well as strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons to Belarus this week.
“I want everyone to know that we have nothing to do with it. Everyone is trying to impose any responsibility on us for any reason and for no reason at all,” Putin said in excerpts released Saturday of an interview with state television that is to be broadcast in full on Sunday.
According to him, no Russian airlines transport migrants to Belarus. He also criticized the West for being a cause of the current crisis. The West has been involved in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries that continue to create conflict.
“Is it Belarus that pioneered these problems, or what? No, these are causes that were created by the Western countries themselves, including European countries,” Putin said.
In frigid temperatures, a large number of migrants have set up camp in makeshift camps on the Belarusian border. Polish officials report that migrants are making new attempts to cross the border every day.
This situation is not likely to change soon. Belta, a Belarusian news agency that reports from Belarusian states that Lukasenko ordered Saturday’s military deployment at the border to collect food and aid for migrants.
Poland’s Border Guards agency on Saturday morning said in one case, Belarusian soldiers began destroying a temporary border barrier near the Polish village of Czeremcha and used laser beams to blind Polish security services.
A group of about 100 migrants waited nearby to cross the border. “Belarusians equipped the foreigners with tear gas, which was used toward the Polish services,” the Border Guards said, saying the Poles stopped the attempts to cross.
It is difficult to verify many of the incidents reported at the border. Independent journalists face limits to their reporting in Belarus, and a state of emergency in Poland’s border zone prevents media from entering the area.
The current state of emergency is over by Nov. 30. According to Saturday’s statement, the Polish government was working to create a system that would allow journalists who have permission to be allowed to return to the border zone to continue reporting from that area.
Europe has strengthened its borders since 2015’s large migration to Europe. This was done in an effort to deter more immigrants and refugees. Yet, each year, thousands attempt to cross the border, sometimes attempting dangerous, and often deadly, journeys on land or sea.
Many people have fallen for the new, easier route to Europe through Belarus since last summer.
Lukashenko was accused by the EU, of creating the artificial pathway in retaliation for sanctions against him regime. These were placed after a widely discredited election in 2020.
After a May incident, a passenger plane flying from Greece and Lithuania to Belarus was diverted to Minsk by Belarus. Authorities arrested Raman Paratasevich, a dissident journalist. The EU called it air piracy, barred Belarusian carriers from its skies and cut imports of the country’s top commodities, including petroleum products and potash, an ingredient in fertilizer.
Lukashenko, furious, responded by saying that he wouldn’t abide to an agreement to stop illegal migration. He claimed that EU sanctions had deprived his government funds necessary to control the flow of migrants. As a result, planes carrying migrants arrived in Belarus from Syria, Iraq, and other nations.
Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed.