March 5. 2024. 2:22

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Belarus says Poland closing border crossing point is ‘catastrophic’

Belarus on Friday (10 February) slammed a decision by Poland to close a border checkpoint between the two countries as “catastrophic”, saying it could lead to a “collapse” on both sides of the border.

Poland said on Thursday, citing security concerns, it would close a key border crossing into Belarus at Bobrowniki, starting at 12 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) on Friday, driving already hostile relations between the two countries to a new low.

Minsk criticised the decision on Thursday, but went further in a statement on Friday, calling the move irrational and dangerous.

“The actions of the Polish authorities could lead to a collapse on both sides of the border,” Belarus’ border committee said in a statement shared on social media.

Poland has become a key refuge for opponents of President Alexander Lukashenko and Warsaw has become one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Belarus’ main ally Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

After the closure comes into force, only two of six major land crossing points along the two countries’ 400-km (249 mile) border will be open, Belarus’ border force said in a statement.

“With the closure of another Polish checkpoint, the situation will become catastrophic,” Belarus’ border force added, pointing to already existing long lines at border crossings. “The load on the remaining two checkpoints will critically increase”.

Minsk also said it believed the decision was purposefully designed to “further aggravate the situation at the border and limit citizens’ travel.”

In 2021, Belarus orchestrated the arrival of thousands of migrants via airlines to Minsk, and helped them reach the Polish border, in what was seen as an attempt to destabilise this country and the EU.

Polish PM accuses Putin of masterminding Belarus migrant attack

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Tuesday (9 November) accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of orchestrating a wave of migrants trying to illegally enter Poland from Belarus, saying the “attack” threatens to destabilise the European Union.

Relations were further strained on Wednesday when a journalist of Polish origin was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Belarusian court in a trial Warsaw says was politically motivated.

Andrzej Poczobut was sentenced for “instigating hatred against religious and national groups, and rehabilitating Nazism” after being arrested in March 2021, Polish state-run news agency PAP reported.

“The politically motivated show trial and today’s verdict are a clear testimony to the anti-Polish actions of the Belarusian authorities,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement. “We denounce the unjust sentence handed down by the court of an authoritarian state.”