Ukraine Reinforces Belarus Border in Case It Becomes Next Target of Migrant Wave

Belarus
NIKOLAI PETROV/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine has moved to reinforce its border with Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus, in case it becomes the next victim of the “artificially created migrant crisis” afflicting Poland and Lithuania.

“Last Sunday, the leaders of Ukraine’s security and defence agencies met in the city of Lutsk, not far from the border with Belarus, and invited ambassadors of Poland and Lithuania to join, because we need a collective response to the situation in Belarus,” said Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in comments in Brussels reported by Ukrinform on Monday.

“[W]e have focused on the artificially created migrant crisis, but we cannot know what will happen tomorrow. Our three countries have to deal with the migrant crisis today, remembering that this is not the end of the story – Russia will do something new tomorrow,” Kuleba said.

He noted that “So far we have not seen an influx of migrants to our country,” but stressed that this simply “proves once again that this migrant crisis is artificial, it is deliberately directed against Poland and Lithuania to provoke you, put pressure, and sow discord in your societies around the ways to resolve this crisis.”

Ukraine, unlike Poland and Lithuania, is a member of neither the European Union nor NATO, but migrants could pass through it and on into EU member-state Slovakia, and from their continue on to the Czech Republic, Germany, and other Western European countries.

“I would like the Belarusian leaders to be more friendly to Ukraine so that we can see the northern flank as a safe place but, unfortunately, this is not the case,” Kuleba had said at a joint press briefing with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, adding that “the Ukrainian Government is doing everything possible, taking all measures, cooperating with the closest partners to bolster our defences on the northern flank, to make sure that our country is protected from all sides.”

Being forced to move personnel to guard the Belarusian frontier is problematic for Ukraine, which is claiming that Russian forces are menacing its eastern flank, which is already home to Russian-backed separatist regions, populated in large part by ethnic Russians.

NATO’s Stoltenberg has said that the “unusual concentration of troops” was concerning, but Russia, for its part, has insisted it has no intention of taking military action “unless we’re provoked by Ukraine, or by somebody else” — which it later clarified as meaning “attacked or shelled” — and that the real threat provocations are coming from the Ukrainians and NATO.

“This is not Ukrainian territory. This is Russian territory,” said Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative at the United Nations, of the area where its troops are concentrated.

“There are a lot of threats coming from Ukraine,” Polyanskiy told Newsweek, adding: “And do not forget about American warships in the Black Sea, which operate very provocatively.”

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