The Kremlin said it sent two Tu-22M3 aircraft, capable of carrying nuclear missiles - including hypersonic weapons of the kind designed to evade air defences - to fly over Belarus on Wednesday
It came after an escalation in hostilities at the border, which saw two groups of migrants crossing into Poland before being detained by officials.
Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa are trying to get to the EU via Poland, adding to growing concerns of armed conflict grow amid rising hostility between the European Union and Minsk.
Camped in sub-zero temperatures and surrounded by armed guards, water cannons and barbed wire, clashes between migrants seeking entry to the EU and Polish border guards are expected to escalate in the coming days.
The worsening situation has caused alarm across Europe, with the EU accusing Belarus of encouraging illegal migration in revenge for previous sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.
There have also been accusations, from Poland, that the crisis is being "masterminded" by Russia to cause another migrant crisis situation within the EU, which the Kremlin denies.
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage as tensions escalate at the Poland/Belarus border.
Watch: ‘Gunshots’ heard as migrants detained
Why is a migrant crisis unfolding at the Poland-Belarus border?
Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa are trying to cross the border from Belarus into Poland as fears of armed conflict grow amid rising hostility between the European Union and Minsk.
My colleague Kieran Guilbert reports:
Europe accuses Minsk of encouraging illegal migration as fears rise of armed conflict
Poland accuses Belarusian troops of firing shots as migrants detained
Two groups of migrants managed to cross the border from Belarus into Poland, but all the people in the groups were detained, Polish authorities said Wednesday.
Poland’s defence ministry also accused Belarusian forces of firing shots into the air in a border area where migrants have set up a makeshift camp.
The ministry posted a video on Twitter with noises of what sounded like shots.
It is impossible to independently verify the information due to a state of emergency in Poland that prevents reporters, activists and any other non-residents from entering a zone along the border.
The latest developments come amid the most tense period to date after months of heavy migration on Belarus’ borders with Poland, Lithuania, and to a lesser extent, Latvia.
The European Union has accused the regime of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko of trying to create instability with a new wave of mass migration to the EU.
EU leaders say Belarus is retaliating for sanctions the bloc imposed on Mr Lukashenko’s authoritarian government over its brutal crackdown on domestic dissent.
Thousands of people were jailed and beaten following months of protests after Mr Lukashenko won a sixth term in a 2020 election that the opposition and the West saw as rigged.
Migrants camp at border
A man carries a child as he gathers with other migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno Grodno, Belarus, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Hundreds if not thousands of migrants sought to storm the border from Belarus into Poland on Monday, cutting razor wire fences and using branches to try and climb over them. The siege escalated a crisis along the European Union’s eastern border that has been simmering for months.
EU to blame for migrant crisis, Russia claims
The Kremlin on Wednesday blamed a migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland on the European Union, saying it was failing to uphold its own humanitarian values and trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the border.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that comments by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki - who has blamed Moscow for the border crisis - were unacceptable.
Refugees from Asia and the Middle East have clashed with Polish border guards this week as they tried to cross the border from Belarus and were pushed back.
Hundreds attempt to cross border on Monday
Polish police and border guards stand attach the barbed wire as migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno Grodno, Belarus, Tuesday 9 Nov. Hundreds if not thousands of migrants sought to storm the border from Belarus into Poland on Monday, cutting razor wire fences and using branches to try and climb over them. The siege escalated a crisis along the European Union’s eastern border that has been simmering for months.
Russia sends bombers to patrol Belarus airspace as migrant crisis escalates
Russia has sent two Russian strategic bombers to carry out flights over Belarus, the RIA news agency said, amid rising tensions between Minsk and Warsaw over a migrant crisis at their mutual border.
The bombers carried out flights on Wednesday morning
Belarus ‘instrumentalisation of migrants’ is inhumane, Merkel tells Putin
German chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone that Belarus’s "instrumentalisation of migrants" was inhumane and unacceptable and asked him to press Belarus’s government on the matter, her spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The Kremlin earlier blamed the European Union for the migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, saying it was failing to uphold its own humanitarian values and trying to "strangle" Belarus with plans to close part of the border.
Watch: EU Council president and Polish PM hold joint news conference on Belarus border crisis
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