Poland detained hundreds more migrants and refugees trying to enter the country overnight from Belarus and deployed 3,000 extra troops to strengthen the border.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told broadcaster PR1 on Wednesday that it was “not a quiet night” as he reported “many attempts to cross the Polish border”.
Some tried to break through a barbed wire fence with shovels and other tools, but were repulsed by Polish security forces.
Crowds of people have gathered in freezing temperatures near the Belarus-Poland border in recent days in hopes of moving to the European Union, which has caused flashbacks to the 2015 refugee crisis.
The months-long border crisis culminated on Monday when hundreds in Belarus were on their way to the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing.
The Polish radio station RMF said about 200 people tried to cross the border on Tuesday afternoon, and a second group of 60 people made an attempt after midnight.
Blaszczak said all those trying to cross were detained, and that the force of Polish soldiers stationed in the area had been strengthened to 15,000 out of 12,000.
Hundreds camp along the border, a fraction of the estimated 4,000 migrants and refugees gathered in areas near the border, including nearby forests.
EU complains Minsk’s gangster-style tactics
Poland and other EU states accuse Belarus of inciting migrants and refugees – mostly from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa – to cross over in retaliation for Western sanctions on Minsk over President Alexander Lukashenko’s repression of disagreement after last year’s disputed election.
EU diplomats told Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the bloc was close to imposing more sanctions on Belarus over the escalating crisis, which is targeting some 30 individuals and entities, including Belarus’s foreign minister.
The EU earlier on Tuesday accused Lukashenko of “gangster style”Tactics in the struggle, in which at least seven people died amid warnings from human rights groups that they were facing icy conditions and a lack of food and medical attention.
Russia’s backed Lukashenko’s government denies the engineering crisis and blames European powers and the United States for the plight of people stranded at the border.
On Wednesday, the Belarusian border guard service accused Warsaw of illegally repatriating migrants and refugees.
Belarus’s foreign minister accused the EU on Wednesday of “provoking” a migrant distance on its border with Poland, saying Minsk was seeking a “joint response” to the crisis with Russia.
“The migrant crisis has been provoked by the EU itself and its states bordering Belarus,” Vladimir Makei said during a visit to Moscow.
Polish Prime Minister says Putin ‘mastermind’ of crisis
The Kremlin blamed the EU crisis on Wednesday, saying the bloc had failed to uphold its own humanitarian values and had tried to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the border.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said comments by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – who blamed Moscow for the border crisis – were unacceptable.
Morawiecki on Tuesday accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating the crisis, which he said threatened to destabilize the EU by 27 members.
“This attack that Lukashenko is carrying out is his mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin,” Morawiecki told the Polish parliament on Tuesday after visiting security forces along the border.
Putin on Wednesday suggested to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that EU member states discuss the migrant crisis on the Belarus-Poland border directly with Minsk, his office said.
A German government spokesman said in a phone call to Putin that Belarus’s “instrumentalisation of migrants” was inhumane and unacceptable, and asked him to put pressure on the Minsk government.