linked to Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman who has led the Russian region of Chechnya since 2007. Around the time of his murder, Mr. Nemtsov was compiling a report on the involvement of Russian soldiers in the war that had begun in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Mr. Yashin finished and released the report, and became one of the few politicians willing to openly criticize the Chechen leader.

In 2017, Mr. Yashin and fellow opposition candidates won seven out of 10 seats on the local council in the Krasnoselsky district of Moscow.

seven years in a penal colony.

Ms. Kotenochkina said the case against her and Mr. Gorinov had been a “hint” to Mr. Yashin that he should leave the country or face prison.

government label tantamount to enemy of the state.

“Now people see: We are not running anywhere, we stand our ground and share the fate of our country,” he wrote.

“This makes our words worth more and our arguments stronger. But most importantly, it leaves us a chance to regain our homeland. After all, the winner is not the one who is stronger right now, but the one who is ready to go to the end.”

Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.

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Russia’s Blockade of Ukraine Is ‘War Crime,’ Top E.U. Official Says

LONDON — The Russian blockade that has stopped Ukraine from exporting its vast storehouses of grain and other goods, threatening starvation in distant corners of the globe, is a “war crime,” the European Union’s top foreign policy official declared Monday.

The remarks by the official, Josep Borrell Fontelles, were among the strongest language from a Western leader in describing the Kremlin’s tactics to subjugate Ukraine nearly four months after it invaded, and with no end to the conflict in sight.

Before Russian forces began pounding Ukraine in February, it was a major exporter of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer. But the Black Sea blockade — along with Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian farmland and its destruction of agricultural infrastructure — has brought exports to a near standstill. The latest blow came Monday, when, Ukrainian regional authorities said, a Russian missile razed a food warehouse in Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest Black Sea port.

arriving in Luxembourg for a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers. “Millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime, so I cannot imagine that this will last much longer.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made the same point in a remote address to the African Union on Monday. Moscow has deep ties to many African countries, which have been reluctant to criticize the invasion.

similar announcement on Sunday by Germany, Europe’s biggest economy. Denmark said it was also activating a plan to deal with looming shortages of gas that had been supplied by Russia.

The developments came as Russia, far from feeling the pain of lost fuel sales, found a savior in China, which reported on Monday that it was now the biggest buyer of Russian oil.

considering a suspension of fuel taxes to ease the strain on consumers.

NBC News, Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said that the two Americans, Alex Drueke, 39, and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, were “soldiers of fortune” who had been engaged in shelling and firing on Russian forces and should be “held responsible for the crimes they have committed.”

The sanctions imposed on Russia also played a role on Monday in an escalating confrontation with Lithuania, a member of both the European Union and NATO.

The Russian authorities threatened Lithuania with retaliation if the Baltic country did not swiftly reverse its ban on the transportation of some goods to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave between Lithuania and Poland. Citing instructions from the European Union, Lithuania’s railway on Friday said it was halting the movement of goods from Russia that have been sanctioned by the European bloc.

Mr. Peskov told reporters the situation was “more than serious.” He called the new restrictions “an element of a blockade” of the region and a “violation of everything.”

small town of Toshkivka in Luhansk Province, part of the eastern region known as Donbas. That is where Russian forces have concentrated much of their military power as part of a plan to seize the region after having failed to occupy other parts of the country, including Kyiv, the capital, and Kharkiv, the second-largest city, in northern Ukraine.

Reports over the weekend suggested that Russian forces had broken through the Ukrainian front line in Toshkivka, about 12 miles southeast of the metropolitan area of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Those are the last major cities in Luhansk not to have fallen into Russian hands. As of Monday, it remained unclear whether Russia had made any further advance there.

But Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had intensified shelling in and around Kharkiv, weeks after the Ukrainians had pushed them back, suggesting that Moscow still had territorial ambitions beyond Donbas.

“We de-occupied this region,” Mr. Zelensky said in an address to a conference of international policy experts in Italy. “And they want to do it again.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from London, Andrew Higgins from Warsaw, Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Druzhkivka, Ukraine, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Valerie Hopkins and Oleksandr Chubko from Kyiv; Dan Bilefsky from Montreal; Monika Pronczuk from Brussels; Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong; Stanley Reed from London; and Zach Montague from Rehoboth Beach, Del.

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How the West Marshaled a Stunning Show of Unity Against Russia

Europeans were similarly reluctant about shipping lethal weapons to the Ukrainian Army, even those categorized as defensive. Fearing a backlash at home, Germany and its neighbors limited themselves to sending protective gear like helmets or flak jackets.

But their resolve quickly stiffened with the start of the war. Shortly before Germany, the Netherlands offered Ukraine Stinger missiles and other weapons. Last Saturday, the European Union set up a nearly $500 million fund for members to send weapons. It was the first time the bloc jointly purchased lethal weapons to arm another country’s army under the E.U. banner — another Rubicon crossed.

“I don’t remember a time when the target of Western sanctions was so economically integrated into the West,” said Tom Keatinge, a senior researcher with the British Royal United Services Institute, a research group in London. Punishing Russia, he said, became an imperative for world leaders and everyday consumers. “It became about, ‘What are you, man on the street, going to sacrifice for Ukraine?’”

Countries that are geographically closer to Russia, like Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as the Netherlands — backed by the United States and Canada — pressed for a single huge set of sanctions that would genuinely hurt Mr. Putin, according to European officials who took part in the talks.

In particular, these countries were pushing for personally penalizing Mr. Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and suspending Russian banks from SWIFT, a kind of financial nuclear option that had by that point become a rallying cry for protesters on the streets of Europe and on social media. But SWIFT was still a no go for the Germans, several officials said.

It was before dinner on Feb. 24, on the evening after the invasion began, when Mr. Zelensky’s image flickered on a video screen. European leaders were meeting under the highest level of secrecy, without advisers or electronic devices. Clad in suits and ties, they were seated in the comfort of a high-tech conference room in Brussels. Mr. Zelensky appeared to be in a bunker, somewhere in Kyiv, wearing his now-famous military-green T-shirt. The contrast was not lost on anyone in the room.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Panic Grips Some Cities as Russia Tightens Cordon

Russia clamped down harder Friday on news and free speech than at any time in President Vladimir V. Putin’s 22 years in power, blocking access to Facebook and major foreign news outlets, and enacting a law to punish anyone spreading “false information” about its Ukraine invasion with up to 15 years in prison,

The crackdown comes as the Kremlin scrambles to contain discontent over the war and to control the narrative as Russia faces its most severe economic crisis in decades as a result of this week’s crushing Western sanctions. Fearing prosecution, more independent Russian news outlets shut down on Friday, and the B.B.C. said it had suspended all of its operations in Russia.

Mr. Putin signed a law that effectively criminalizes any public opposition to or independent news reporting about the war against Ukraine. Taking effect as soon as Saturday, the law could make it a crime to simply call the war a “war” — the Kremlin says it is a “special military operation” — on social media or in a news article or broadcast. Announcements that the law was coming had already pushed Russian independent media outlets to shut down in recent days, and more followed on Friday.

In addition, the government blocked access inside Russia to the websites of major Russian-language outlets that are based outside the country, and to Facebook, the social network popular with the Westward-looking urban middle class where many have posted fierce criticism of Mr. Putin’s war.

Facebook, Russia’s internet regulator claimed, had engaged in “discrimination against Russian news media” by limiting access to pro-Kremlin accounts, including that of the Defense Ministry’s television channel. The decision was a blow to internet freedom in Russia, where Western social networks have remained accessible despite Mr. Putin’s creeping authoritarianism.

For now, popular Russian social networks like VKontakte remain accessible, along with Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. But analysts expect a further crackdown, heightening the importance of the messaging and social networking app Telegram, which the Kremlin tried and failed to block in 2018.

Russian officials claim that journalists writing critically about the war — or calling it a “war” or an “invasion” — are undermining the national interest, even referring to them as traitors.

The lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, passed the law criminalizing “false information” about the armed forces on Friday by a unanimous vote, and Mr. Putin signed it later in the day. Vyacheslav Volodin, the Duma speaker, said that under the new law, “those who lied and made declarations discrediting our armed forces will be forced to suffer very harsh punishment.”

The text of the new law offered few details about what constituted an offense, but Russian journalists and Kremlin opponents take it to mean that any contradiction of the government’s statements on the invasion could be treated as a crime. Besides criminalizing the sharing of “false information” it makes “discrediting” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calling on other countries to sanction Russia or protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine punishable by fines and years of imprisonment.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the law would apply to people inside Russia — such as foreign correspondents — producing content in a language other than Russian. But another senior lawmaker said that citizens of any country could be prosecuted under it, and the BBC — which has a large Russian-language service in Moscow as well as an English-language bureau — said it was halting its operations inside the country.

“This legislation appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism,” Tim Davie, the director-general of the BBC, said in a statement. “It leaves us no other option than to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists and their support staff within the Russian Federation while we assess the full implications of this unwelcome development.”

Mr. Putin was silent on those developments on Friday. Instead, he held a televised videoconference with the governor of the Kaliningrad region, a Russian exclaves sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, in which he tried to exude a sense of normalcy amid crisis.

“We don’t see any need to exacerbate the situation or worsen our relationships,” Mr. Putin said. “All of our actions, if they occur, they occur exclusively, always, in response to ill-intended actions toward the Russian Federation.”

Mr. Putin’s comments sounded unreal with the war in Ukraine raging, but they appeared to be a message to his domestic audience to show that he was not the one escalating tensions.

The tensions were felt this week, among others, by Russia’s community of independent journalists, who found ways to publish and broadcast content harshly critical of the Kremlin despite Mr. Putin’s authoritarianism.

On Thursday, the pillars of Russia’s independent broadcast media, the Echo of Moscow radio station and the TV Rain television channel, shut down under pressure from the state.

Then, on Friday, the government said it would block access to Russian-language media produced outside the country: the websites of the Voice of America, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the popular Latvian-based news outlet Meduza. The reason: the systematic distribution of what it called false information about the “special military operation on the territory of Ukraine.”

Russians will still be able to reach blocked media through the Telegram messaging app, where many news outlets have their own accounts. Some can also use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to bypass restrictions.

But independent news outlets based in Russia saw the dangers as so great that increasing numbers shut down. Znak, an independent news outlet covering Russia’s regions, shuttered its website on Friday, with a statement saying: “We are suspending our operations given the large amount of new restrictions on the functioning of the news media in Russia.”

Others tried to stay alive by telling their readers they would no longer cover the war. Russia’s last major independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said it was deleting its content about the war in Ukraine. The Village, a digital lifestyle magazine that moved its operations from Russia to Poland this week, said it was retroactively editing its articles to change any mention of the word “war” to “special operation.”

Until recently, Russia’s mostly uncensored internet had provided an outlet for Russians to express dissent and to read news reports outside the Kremlin propaganda bubble that envelops much of the country’s traditional news media. But amid the war in Ukraine, which has touched off protests across the country and an outpouring of opposition from Russians online, the Kremlin appears to see the internet as a newfound threat.

Echo of Moscow, a radio station founded by Soviet dissidents in 1990 and acquired later by the state energy giant Gazprom, said on Friday that it would delete all corporate social media accounts and turn off its website as part of a “liquidation” process. By the afternoon, its popular YouTube channel was gone. More than one million people had tuned in to listen to its programs each day, according to the radio station’s longtime editor in chief, Aleksei A. Venediktov.

“Echo is my home,” said Irina Vorobyeva, a journalist who worked at the radio station for more than 15 years, in an interview on Thursday. “It’s home for a huge number of journalists, and it’s home for a huge number of our guests, who came here to talk about their opinions, to talk about things the world didn’t know.”

The situation was also a sea change for Novaya Gazeta, the 29-year-old independent newspaper that has endured the murder of six of its journalists and whose editor, Dmitri Muratov, shared the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

In an email newsletter on Friday morning, Nadezhda Prusenkova, one of the newspaper’s journalists, wrote that it was hard to see many routes for the publication to continue to exist.

“I don’t know what happens next,” she wrote.

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Ukraine Live Updates: Putin and Xi Pledge ‘No Limits’ to Russia-China Ties

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

YAVORIV, Ukraine — With television cameras rolling, a Ukrainian soldier heaved an America-made missile launcher onto his shoulder and pressed a red button. The missile streaked out and blew a target — a pile of tires — to smithereens.

For the more than two months after Russia began its military buildup near Ukraine last fall, the United States was quiet about its military aid to Kyiv, merely acknowledging sending arms that had been scheduled for delivery long ago.

That has changed now. American cargo planes bringing weaponry and ammunition are arriving openly at Kyiv’s Borispol airport. And the Ukrainian army is making a point of showing media these newly delivered weapons at a military training area.

In the last two weeks, seven U.S. cargo planes carrying a total of about 585 tons of military assistance have landed in Kyiv. After the latest plane arrived, on Thursday, Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, posted on Twitter, “this is not the end! To be continued!”

Along with ammunition for small arms, the planes also delivered a significant number of missiles to Ukraine. These include Javelin anti-tank missiles, which the United States has been providing to Ukraine since 2018.

It also included a type of American-made, shoulder-launched missile that can blow up sandbagged fortifications and destroy partially buried bunkers. On Friday, Ukrainian soldiers fired 10 of the so-called “bunker busters” for international media, including a Japanese television crew.

To critics of the policy of arming Ukraine, this weapon seems provocative. Within Ukraine, nearly half the respondents to an opinion poll published on Wednesday said they believed Western weaponry will deter Russia, but a third said they thought it would do the opposite — provoke an attack. The Russian government has objected to the weapons transfers, and Germany is staunchly opposed to them.

“I do not think it’s realistic to believe such weapons exports could turn around the military imbalance,” Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said on a visit to Kyiv on Monday.

Ukraine’s policy of publicly displaying the new weaponry adds to their value as a deterrent, said Maria Zolkina, a political analyst at Democratic Initiatives Foundation. The media events, she said, will help “destroy the myth that an unprotected Ukraine as an easy catch for Russia.”

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has said the weapons airlifts strengthen Ukraine’s hand in dealing with Russia.

“The stronger Ukraine is the lower are the risks of further Russian aggression,” he said in a video conference with journalists this week. “The more defensive weapons we get today the less likely we will need to use them.”

The United States is not the only country that has been arming Ukraine in the airlifts that began last month. The United Kingdom sent about 2,000 light anti-tank missiles. With approval from the United States, the Baltic countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia said they would transfer Stinger antiaircraft missiles, filling gaps in Ukraine’s weak air defenses. Poland has also said it will send antiaircraft missiles.

At the demonstration firing of the American bunker busters, only Ukrainian soldiers handled the weapon. They had been through a three-day course taught by instructors from the 53d Infantry Brigade of the Florida National Guard. The Americans stood aside, declining to appear on camera.

The launching tube and missile weigh about 15 pounds and look like a small, green log. When a missile was fired, the whooshing noise rattled dishes on a picnic table set up to provide snacks for the visiting journalists. Ukrainian soldiers cheered when missiles hit the targets of tires and exploded in a red flash.

“It’s very simple, just a gadget,” said Ivan, a 25-year-old Ukrainian senior sergeant, now trained in firing the new missile, who declined to give his last name for security reasons. The soldiers also covered their faces with balaclavas to protect their identities.

But the training itself was simple, Ivan said. “A boy or a girl of any age can fire it. It’s like an iPhone.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting in Kyiv.

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Europe

  • Lukashenko says he won’t force migrants to return home
  • Two flights with returning migrants arrive in Iraq
  • Two more flights planned on Nov. 26-27
  • Poland reports detention centre unrest

BRUZGI, Belarus/MOSCOW, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko told migrants stranded at the border with Poland on Friday that his country would help them to return home if they wanted but would not force them.

Thousands of migrants are stuck on the European Union’s eastern frontier, in what the EU says is a crisis Minsk engineered by distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying them in and pushing them across the border.

But Lukashenko said it was the EU that deliberately provoked a humanitarian crisis that needed to be resolved and he told the migrants he would not play politics with their fate.

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In his first public appearance at the border since the start of the crisis, Lukashenko met migrants at a warehouse turned into shelter and told them they were free to head west or go home as they chose.

An Iraqi teenager told Lukashenko she could not return home and hoped to continue on to Europe. “We won’t only hope,” Lukashenko answered. “We will work together on your dream.”

Lukashenko said no-one would be coerced.

“If you want to go westwards, we won’t detain you, choke you, beat you,” he said as hundreds of migrants applauded. “It’s up to you. Go through. Go.”

He added: “We won’t in any circumstances detain you, tie your hands and load you on planes to send you home if you don’t want that.”

‘HYBRID WAR’

Poland and other EU nations say the crisis is part of a “hybrid war” Minsk is waging in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed in response to Lukashenko’s crushing of protests against his disputed re-election last year and is designed to destabilise the bloc.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to migrants as he visits the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the Belarusian-Polish border, in the Grodno region, Belarus November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The EU has agreed on new sanctions in response to the border crisis, which diplomats in Brussels say should be approved and adopted in early December.

Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, bearing the brunt of the crisis, have deployed thousands of border guards, soldiers and police to seal the border and push back migrants attempting to cross over from Belarus.

Lithuania on Friday said it could close its border crossings if more migrants attempted to cross from Belarus in trucks.

Belarus has begun to fly some migrants home, but has said it is waiting for an answer from the EU on its demand that Germany should accept 2,000 stranded at the border, which the EU has rejected and Germany has denied agreeing to it.

On Friday, two planes brought hundreds of Iraqis back from Belarus to Erbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region.

Two more flights were expected on Nov. 26-27, the TASS news agency reported.

Warsaw has said the repatriation of migrants marked a change of tactics rather than a genuine attempt at de-escalation and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, touring European capitals this week to rally support for a tough response, raised the possibility of further sanctions if the crisis escalated.

Poland and Lithuania continue to report crossing attempts by migrants who are increasingly desperate with the onset of winter conditions. Polish authorities also reported unrest at one of the detention centres set up for migrants who made their way into the country.

The issue has exacerbated strife between Russia and the EU, whose ties have been at post-Cold War lows since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who helped Lukashenko ride out mass street protests after last year’s election, has also backed Belarus in its most recent standoff with the EU.

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Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Kacper Pempel, Pawel Florkiewicz; Azad Lashkari and Andrius Sytas, Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Mark Trevelyan and Tomasz Janowski; editing by Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Lithuania Welcomes Belarusians as It Rebuffs Middle Easterners

RUKLA, Lithuania — The emigrants hitchhiked overnight to the Dysna River, the border of their native Belarus. They thought they could wade across the frigid waters, but the spot they chose in haste proved to be so deep they had to swim.

On the other side, at dawn two weeks ago, they found a house with a light on and asked for the police. They were fleeing the authoritarian regime of President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, and seeking asylum in neighboring Lithuania, a member of the European Union. Taken to a makeshift camp at a border guard station, they joined about a dozen Iraqis, some Chechens and someone from Southeast Asia.

“We’ve been here for weeks, months,” a migrant told them, according to one of the Belarusians, Aleksandr Dobriyanik. “We know you’ll leave here in just a couple days.”

uprising against Mr. Lukashenko’s fraudulent 2020 re-election sparked a crackdown in which anyone who sympathized with the opposition is a potential target. It has approved 71 asylum requests from Belarusians this year. The U.S. State Department commended the country last week for “offering safe haven to many Belarusian democracy advocates,” including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the opposition leader.

clashes with Polish police have made worldwide headlines.

Amid the crush of migration, the paths of Belarusians and other migrants intersect at holding facilities across Lithuania. At one migrant camp, a Syrian barber explained to his Belarusian tentmate that his family spent their life savings to get to Europe and now had “no way back.” Mr. Dobriyanik met men fleeing their native Chechnya region of Russia, who railed against President Vladimir V. Putin.

Lithuania, with a population of less than three million, has struggled to manage the thousands of new arrivals, and this month the government declared a state of emergency. Lithuanian leaders have called the migrants a “hybrid weapon” wielded by Mr. Lukashenko to “attack the democratic world.”

indefinite military service in Eritrea, then flew to Belarus as civil war flared in Ethiopia. The woman, who did not want her name used because she feared for her family in Eritrea, stayed in Belarus for months until she found a way to enter Lithuania.

“We came running from a dictator government,” she said, “and we were stuck in a dictator government.”

Tomas Dapkus contributed reporting.

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Poland Gets Support From Europe on Tough Borders

BRUSSELS — The migration crisis of 2015, when millions of migrants and asylum seekers surged over Europe’s borders, nearly tore apart the European Union. Many members offered asylum to the refugees; others, like Poland and Hungary, wanted no part of it.

Six years later, the current standoff at the border of Poland and Belarus has echoes of that crisis, but this time, European officials insist that member states are united when it comes to defending Europe’s borders and that uncontrolled immigration is over.

What is different, the Europeans say, is that this crisis is entirely manufactured by the dictator of Belarus, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, as a response to sanctions that the Europeans imposed on his country in the face of a stolen election and a vicious repression of domestic dissent.

“This area between the Poland and Belarus borders is not a migration issue, but part of the aggression of Lukashenko toward Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, with the aim to destabilize the E.U.,” Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, said in an interview over the summer.

is withholding from Warsaw billions of dollars in funds intended to help economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet in an indication of how seriously Brussels takes the current standoff with Belarus, Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, visited Warsaw on Wednesday to meet with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland to offer solidarity — and even, perhaps, some border funds.

“Poland, which is facing a serious crisis, should enjoy solidarity and unity of the whole European Union,” Mr. Michel said. “It is a hybrid attack, a brutal attack, a violent attack and a shameful attack,” he added. “And in the wake of such measures, the only response is to act in a decisive manner, with unity, in line with our core values.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, urging him to push Belarus to stop its “inhuman and unacceptable” actions at the Polish border, her spokesman said.

Moscow supports Mr. Lukashenko with money and personnel. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin said, Mr. Putin told Ms. Merkel that there was nothing he could do and that the European Union should deal directly with Mr. Lukashenko. Which is exactly what Brussels refuses to do.

But the position of Brussels is delicate, presenting the European Union with a three-pronged problem. It must show solidarity about protecting the borders of the bloc, sympathy about the humanitarian crisis unfolding there and firmness about defending the supremacy of European law.

The Europeans can hardly ignore the sight of innocent children, women and men, however manipulated they may have been, in freezing conditions, stuck between Polish border guards and troops and barbed wire, and Belarusian troops. The soldiers will not only prohibit them from returning to Minsk, the Belarusian capital where many are arriving before moving to the border, but are also actively helping them breach the Polish border.

At least 10 people have already died; other estimates are higher, but Poland has barred journalists and nongovernmental organizations from the border area.

In response, Brussels is contemplating a fifth round of sanctions, perhaps as early as Monday, aimed at Belarusian officials and at airlines that are flying migrants from the Middle East to Minsk. But few believe that new sanctions will move Mr. Lukashenko any more than previous ones have done, especially since his efforts are a response to the sanctions already in place.

“This is a very serious crisis for the European Union, not just for Poland,” said Piotr Buras, a Warsaw-based fellow of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s a crisis of security, which could get much worse if Polish and Belarusian guards start shooting, and it’s a very serious humanitarian crisis, because Europe can’t accept people starving and freezing on the border.”

Given the nature of the crisis, Mr. Buras said, Brussels should separate it from the confrontation over the rule of law: “Whatever we may think about the Polish rule of law crisis, the E.U. must act in its own interest.”

But the Polish government, which no longer has a clear majority in Parliament, is itself politically stuck, Mr. Buras said. “The problem is not that the E.U. doesn’t want to help Poland because of the rule of law,” he added. “It’s the other way around — it’s very difficult for this Polish government to accept help from E.U. institutions that they are fighting on another front. And the government wants to present itself as the sole savior and defender of the Polish people.”

The European Union has offered Poland help with its own border guards, known as Frontex, significantly expanded since the 2015 crisis and based in Warsaw, said Camino Mortera-Martinez, a Brussels-based fellow of the Center for European Reform. And Brussels also has asylum support staff members who can help screen migrants to judge their qualifications for asylum.

But Poland has rejected both offers and insists on keeping the border area sealed. One reason is its fight with Brussels and its unwillingness to accept help. Warsaw also does not want the oversight of its actions that Frontex might provide, said Luigi Scazzieri, a research fellow in London who is also at the Center for European Reform.

Nor do Warsaw or Brussels want a screening procedure that will act as a “pull factor” to give Mr. Lukashenko and more migrants the hope that they can get into Europe this way.

“The concern on the government side, and this is why they’re so firm, is that if there is even a process to let people in, this will create a narrative that this is a place where people from Iraq and Syria can be processed into Europe, and the numbers won’t be 4,000, as now, but 30,000,” said Michal Baranowski, the director of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund.

So policymakers are in a real conundrum for now, Mr. Scazzieri said. In the longer run, he suggested that sanctions against the airlines would reduce the numbers of migrants, and if the borders remained closed and were reinforced further, fewer would risk the journey.

And at some point, he said, Mr. Lukashenko “will understand that too many migrants in Belarus will create domestic problems.”

Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anton Troianovski from Moscow.

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E.U. Blames Belarus for Migrant Crisis at Poland Border

Poland has massed thousands of troops on its border with Belarus to keep out Middle Eastern migrants who have set up camp there, as Western officials accuse Belarus’s leader of intentionally trying to create a new migrant crisis in Europe.

The standoff along the razor-wire fence separating the two countries has intensified a long-simmering confrontation between Belarus, a repressive former Soviet republic, and the European Union, which includes Poland.

Western officials say that President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus is allowing asylum seekers from the Middle East into his country by the thousands and then funneling them westward toward Poland and the E.U., and has escalated that strategy this week. They say he is retaliating against sanctions imposed after his disputed 2020 election victory.

The sharp increase in tensions has rattled European officials, with images of desperate migrants evoking the refugee crisis of 2015. The confrontation with Belarus, a close Russian ally, also raises new security concerns.

Amnesty International and the Helsinki Foundation of Human Rights, have accused Poland of illegally pushing migrants who had crossed the border back into Belarusian territory.

warned the West: “We stopped drugs and migrants for you — now you’ll have to eat them and catch them yourselves.”

Until recently, migrants were scattered the length of the border, but now Belarusian authorities are collecting them at the Kuznica crossing, said Anna Alboth of the Minority Rights Group in Poland.

On Tuesday, Belarus’s border service released a video showing a tent camp squeezed into a narrow strip of land just a few yards from a line of Polish security forces in white helmets. The video showed a low-flying helicopter, military vehicles and a water cannon truck on the Polish side, and a thicket of tents and smoky bonfires on the Belarusian side.

video posted by the Polish Ministry of Defense on Monday showed a crowd of people trying to break down the razor wire border fence with long sticks.

sent financial aid to Turkey to do so in 2016.

“We see that the Belarusian specialists are working very responsibly,” Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters.

Polish officials said that in addition to those at the border, more than 10,000 migrants were elsewhere in Belarus, also hoping to get to the E.U. On Monday, Piotr Müller, a Polish government spokesman, said the country’s borders were “under attack in an organized manner.” A top security official, Maciej Wasik, said a “real battle” had taken place against people trying to enter Poland illegally near Kuznica.

The standoff comes at a particularly difficult moment in Poland’s relations with the E.U., and in the country’s domestic politics. The conservative Polish government’s longstanding feud with the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, over the independence of Poland’s judiciary escalated in recent weeks, and the commission has been withholding the payment of the country’s $41 billion share of the E.U. coronavirus fund.

At home, the Polish governing party, Law and Justice, has seized on the image of a nation besieged by migrants to parade its nationalist credentials and brand its critics as unpatriotic at a time of national crisis. Both the opposition and nationalist groups that support the government are scheduled to rally in the center of the capital on Thursday, Poland’s Independence Day.

Anton Troianovski reported from Moscow, Monika Pronczuk from Brussels, and Tolek Magdziarz from Warsaw. Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting from Moscow, Jane Arraf from Suleimaniya, Iraq, and Andrew Higgins from Cluj, Romania.

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Migrant at Poland-Belarus Border Faces a Wrenching Decision

ALONG THE EASTERN POLAND BORDER — The father had walked in circles in the rain-drenched Polish forest, cradling his sick daughter, delirious after three days with barely any food or water as temperatures dipped toward freezing. He was soaked, shivering and facing a terrible choice.

His daughter, 2, has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He had wrapped her in a thin coat to protect her from the cold, and she needed urgent medical attention. The father, an Iraqi Kurd who gave his name as Karwan, had guided his family across the border from Belarus but was now in a forested area patrolled by Polish soldiers and border guards.

The choice for the father was pitiless: seeking medical help would mean a return to Belarus and the end of his family’s desperate journey to Europe.

“I can call for an ambulance for you, but border guards will come with it,” Piotr Bystrianin, a Polish activist who arrived to help, told the family, who said they wanted to request asylum in Poland. He had found them after hours of searching in the dark, alerted to their whereabouts by a locator pin sent by cellphone.

geopolitical fight between Belarus and Poland that has escalated into a man-made humanitarian disaster for Europe. At least five people who crossed illegally into Poland have died in recent weeks, some of hypothermia and exhaustion, according to Polish officials, and three nearly drowned in a Polish swamp.

Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus is using migrants to punish the European Union for imposing sanctions on him for cracking down hard after a disputed election last year. The migrants — some fleeing poverty in Africa and elsewhere and others escaping war in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq — are allowed to enter Belarus, and then encouraged to cross over into Poland, a member of the European Union, with hopes of dispersing across the region.

Poland’s right-wing government, determined to keep out refugees and economic migrants, has flooded the eastern border area with security agents, while keeping out prying eyes by declaring it an emergency exclusion zone off limits to all but residents.

in an interview that it was “harmful” for the government to suggest that “every refugee is a terrorist or a sex offender,” adding: “We cannot accept that people die in front of our eyes.”

In a detailed report, Amnesty International last week documented how Polish border guards had held 32 Afghan asylum seekers in “horrendous conditions for weeks” and then pushed them back over the border into Belarus in violation of international law. In a separate report, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that “Poland is conducting mass illegal pushbacks at its border with Belarus.”

Some officials are pushing back against the government’s policy. Poland’s deputy commissioner for human rights denounced the treatment of asylum seekers as a “scandal” that shows “the darkest possible image of Poland.”

sanctions on Belarus for forcing down a passenger jet carrying a Belarusian dissident. Mr. Lukashenko’s government initially steered the migrants toward Lithuania, but directed them south to the Polish border after Lithuania erected a fence.

Both Lithuania and Poland have reinforced their borders, laying coils of razor wire and fortifying existing barriers, borrowing anti-migrant methods pioneered by Hungary at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015.

The European Union, loath to see a repeat of that crisis and another surge of support for populist, anti-immigration politicians, has mostly supported the efforts of Poland and Lithuania to keep out people trying to enter from Belarus.

report on the briefing: “He raped a cow and wanted to get into Poland? Details on migrants at the border.”

But the picture turned out to be a still from a zoophilia pornography movie available on the internet, and involved a horse, not a cow.

Poland has taken in hundreds of asylum-seekers airlifted from Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in August but hostility to migrants sneaking across the border has been a constant feature of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party. In 2015, ahead of elections that brought it to power, its leader said they carried “all sorts of parasites and protozoa.”

Fundacja Ocalenie, waited patiently for the distraught family to make their decision.

Worried that his ailing daughter and others in the group might not survive, Karwan decided it would be best to seek medical help. Two ambulances arrived and, as he had been warned, border guards came, too.

Four family members were taken to the hospital, and six others to the border to be forced back into Belarus. Mr. Bystrianin and a fellow activist, Dorota Nowok, in the area to provide food and clothing, were fined for entering a restricted zone.

Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anatol Magdziarz from Warsaw.

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