Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine and Poland to the south, Lithuania and Latvia to the west. The economy of Belarus mainly consists of agriculture (especially in farming), machine building, mining, energy production
Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe. Its capital is Minsk, and its largest city is Vitebsk. It borders Poland to the north, Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the east, and Lithuania to the south.
On Thursday, migrants congregated in Minsk, Belarus’ capital. Credit… The New York Times is a newspaper published in New York City.
With thousands of migrants trapped on the Polish-Belarusian border and international pressure increasing to settle the combustible impasse on the European Union’s doorstep, many airlines took measures on Friday to restrict flights to Belarus from the Middle East.
The purpose was to keep migrants from reaching the Polish border, which is part of the European Union, where they are detained in frigid temperatures in what relief agencies describe as a growing humanitarian disaster. Western European authorities have accused Belarus’ authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, of organizing the entry of migrants into his nation, effectively deploying them as weapons in retaliation for the E.U. placing heavy sanctions on his regime.
At the same time, Russia, Mr. Lukashenko’s most important ally, provided confusing signals about its position on Belarus’s conduct. Mr. Lukashenko’s threat to shut off the supply of natural gas through the Ukraine to Western Europe was dismissed by the Kremlin, which said that it would keep its promise to send gas to the EU.
“Russia was, is, and will continue to be a nation that meets all of its duties in terms of selling gas to European consumers,” Dmitri S. Peskov, President Vladimir V. Putin’s spokesperson, said on Friday. “Russia’s dependability as a supplier and partner on existing and future contracts is undeniable.”
But it also showed its military might in a display of continued support for a nation it has steadily supported since the immigration crisis escalated this week. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a division of Russian paratroopers travelled to Belarus on military transport aircraft on Friday and landed in the Grodno area near the Polish border for drills with Belarusian forces.
The “surprise combat readiness check” followed two days of patrols of the Polish border area by nuclear-capable Russian bombers, according to the ministry.
One of the most startling parts of the problem is the manner migrants have arrived at the border: flying to Belarus, frequently with the help of travel brokers, and then massing at the border under the watchful eye of Belarusian security forces.
However, the European Commission declared on Friday that Turkish Airlines had halted one-way ticket sales to Minsk and that Iraqi airlines would no longer fly to Belarus. The suspensions might be important since Minsk is served by just a few airlines, and those are two of the major.
Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni people would no longer be permitted to board flights to Belarus, according to Belavia, a Belarusian airline that flies joint flights with Turkish carriers out of Istanbul.
With tens of thousands of troops rushed to the border from Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, there were no signs that the predicament of the migrants caught in the middle would improve very soon.
— Anton Troianovski and Marc Santora
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, attends a Security Council meeting in September. He dismissed criticism directed at Belarus, a Russian ally. Credit… John Minchillo took this shot of the pool.
On Thursday, the intensifying confrontation over the refugees bivouacked in Belarus and barred from entering Poland and Lithuania boiled over into the United Nations Security Council, with Western members accusing Belarus of orchestrating the issue and Russia dismissing their action as cynical politics.
At the conclusion of a council meeting, Britain, Estonia, France, Norway, the United States, and an incoming member of the council, Albania, issued a statement condemning “the orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings whose lives and well-being have been put in jeopardy for political purposes by Belarus.”
They said Belarus’ authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, had set out to “destabilize neighboring nations and the European Union’s external border while deflecting attention away from the country’s own rising human rights breaches.”
Mr. Lukashenko’s actions, according to the statement read outside the Security Council chambers by Estonia’s ambassador, Sven Jürgenson, is unacceptable and requires “a robust international response and collaboration in order to hold Belarus responsible.”
Thousands of migrants, largely from the Middle East, have lately gone to Belarus in the hopes of joining the European Union, but have been denied entry by E.U. member nations Poland and Lithuania. Thousands of people have set up camp at the Polish border.
The Security Council took no action on Thursday, and given the strong alliance between Belarus and Russia — a permanent member of the council with a veto — any punitive measures by the UN’s most powerful body looked unlikely.
Russia’s deputy ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, predicted the criticism and told reporters before the Security Council meeting that the European Union’s depiction of Belarus as the bad guy was an effort to hide the bloc’s own brutality in unjustly keeping refugees out.
Mr. Polyanskiy said, “The story they will be spreading to you is that Belarus is responsible for this problem, that Belarus is using migrants as a weapon of war.”
He said, “We are well aware of what is going on on the border.” “It’s quite upsetting.” There are those who arrived to Belarus legitimately and desire to go to other European Union nations. They are not let to enter the border, are being forced away from it, are being prosecuted, and are being beaten.”
Mr. Polyanskiy called the European Union’s stance on immigration “a tremendous humiliation” and a “complete breach of every imaginable international norm.”
“Absolutely not,” he answered when asked whether Russia and Belarus were working together to transport migrants from Belarus to the European Union’s eastern border.
In 2019, a Turkish Airlines jet takes off from Istanbul. Credit… Reuters/Umit Bektas
Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Germany, the European Union, the United Nations, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey are among the protagonists in the conflict over migrants attempting to enter the European Union.
Thousands of migrants, many of them from Iraq and Syria, have been given permits to travel to Belarus’ capital, Minsk, and then escorted to the country’s borders with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, all of which refuse to accept them. Iraqis have started boarding planes to Belarus with visas in hand in Istanbul and Moscow.
Under pressure from the European Union on the airlines concerned, such routes looked to be closed for residents of several nations on Friday. Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni residents would no longer be permitted to board flights to Belarus, according to Turkish Civil Aviation and Belavia, a Belarusian carrier.
“Due to the issue of unlawful border crossings between the European Union and Belarus,” the Turkish statement read, “it has been determined that people of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen who intend to fly to Belarus from Turkish airports will not be able to purchase tickets or board until further notice.”
In a post on its website, Belavia, which runs joint flights with Turkish airlines from Istanbul, told passengers from Iraq, Syria, and Yemen that they would be denied boarding on flights to Belarus from Turkey and offered them a full refund.
The European Commission’s head, Ursula von der Leyen, stated this week that the EU will “examine how to penalise, including by blacklisting, third-country airlines that are involved in human trafficking.”
Minsk is served by a small number of airlines, and even fewer offer direct flights from countries bordering Syria or Iraq. Turkish Carriers has banned one-way ticket sales to Minsk, according to the European Commission, while Iraqi airlines have decided not to restart flights to Belarus.
It’s unclear how the European Union would define “human trafficking,” or how many of the individuals gathered at the Belarus-Poland border, if any, travelled on Turkish Airlines — or how an airline is meant to tell the difference between a tourist and a migrant, for that matter. Iraqis, who made up the majority of the passengers flying out of Istanbul, had visas for Belarus.
The Turkish government, which has been chastised in the past for driving migrants toward Europe in order to further its own political agenda while still struggling to accommodate over four million refugees, sided with European and NATO allies on this occasion.
Ankara, on the other hand, reacted angrily to any possibility of European penalties. In reaction to reports that the airline might face sanctions, the Foreign Ministry issued a furious statement on Thursday.
“We reject attempts to depict Turkey as a contributor to a situation to which it is not a party. Furthermore, despite providing information on the topic honestly, we believe it is purposeful that Turkish Airlines, one of our internationally renowned firms, is being targeted,” the ministry stated.
The Turkish government’s sympathies are evident in the statement, which refers to migrants “illegally entering into our friends Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.”
Many of the migrants boarding aircraft from Turkey have said openly that they do not want to remain in Belarus, an economically distressed, oppressive nation under Western sanctions, and that they just want to go to the European Union, where they expect to obtain refuge and employment.
As a consequence, thousands of them are camped at the border in dangerous circumstances, unable to go in either way — a humanitarian catastrophe that the West accuses Belarus’s president, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, of willfully causing in order to compel the European Union to relax sanctions.
The majority of refugees arriving in Minsk flew on Belavia, Belarus’s official airline, while some flew by Cham Wings, a Syrian airline. However, they are already prohibited from functioning in the European Union.
— Carlotta Gall and Richard Pérez-Pea
On Wednesday, migrants tented near the Belarus-Poland border in the Grodno district of Belarus. Shutterstock/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA/EPA
Bayar Awat, his wife, and their young daughter have been detained on the Belarusian side of the Polish border for more than a week after fleeing their homes in a desperate attempt to enter the European Union. They are exhausted, cold, and exposed to the weather.
Mr. Awat, one of thousands of migrants from Iraq’s Kurdistan area near the Belarus border, said he was aware that Belarus was exploiting migrants like him and his family as players in its own political conflicts, but he was certain that he would not return to Iraq. Instead, he and thousands like him are hopeful that the European Union can reach an agreement with Poland to allow them to enter.
“In the hands of Belarusian and Polish police, we became like a chicken in a cage,” he added over the phone, while children wept in the background. “One of them refuses to let us return to Minsk, while the other refuses to allow us in.” Belarus is engaging in any game they want with us.”
Western officials have accused Belarus’ dictatorial ruler, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, of engineering a migrant crisis on the EU’s border in retaliation for the bloc’s economic sanctions on his country.
They claim that the contrived crisis has transformed Mr. Awat and the other migrants into human weapons in a political battle they have no part in.
Mr. Awat said, “We are fatigued.” “Neither sleeping bags nor tents are available.”
He said that he and his wife had removed their winter jackets to wrap their baby, Katu, in order to protect her from the freezing temperatures and rain. Because of the weight, they abandoned their little tent and sleeping bags as they traveled through a dense forest for two days to the Polish border, he claimed.
Mr. Awat, a worker, claimed each family member had cost him $3,400 to get there. This included the expense of visas to Belarus acquired in the United Arab Emirates, flights through Dubai, and 14 nights in Minsk, Belarus’s capital. He said that he want to provide a better life for his family.
Minsk serves as a staging station for thousands of migrants, the most of whom are Iraqi Kurds, on their journey to the European Union’s borders with Poland and Lithuania.
Mr. Awat and the five other Kurds with whom the family went paid thousands of dollars extra to a smugglers’ outfit in their homeland of Sulaimaniya as a deposit.
Mr. Awat and other refugees are now taking refuge near the edge of “the jungle,” a thick woodland where foliage and fallen logs obstruct practically every step, according to Mr. Awat.
Aid groups were supplying food and drink, he added, and one of their main challenges, apart from the cold, was charging phones. They were attempting to preserve battery power since they only had one battery pack remaining in his little party.
“We only phone our family in Kurdistan once a day,” he added. “We assure them that we are OK.” “We are not yet dead.”
He said he couldn’t return to Iraq because he was afraid his life would be in danger there due to a personal feud.
According to Mr. Awat, Belarusian border guards assisted them in reaching the Polish border by pointing them a shortcut that avoided the official Polish border crossing and appeared near a crack in the border barrier.
However, he said that when their little party was apprehended alone, Belarus police assaulted him and the other men with rods and wires and insulted the ladies.
In the near-freezing weather, Polish security officers used tear gas and water cannons to drive back an estimated 2,000 individuals at the Polish border.
He said he remained silent to protect his daughter. He stated he feared Belarusian officials would prevent them from returning to Minsk now that they were near the Polish border.
Sangar Khaleel and Barzan Jabar provided reporting.
The primeval woodland on Poland’s border with Belarus was pitch dark before sunrise on Thursday, with only the howling winter wind breaking the calm. A group of humanitarian workers was intended to meet migrants in severe need of aid after being directed to this place by a pin on a Google map.
But there was nothing. There was nothing but darkness and quiet. Night vision goggles were donned by one of the members of the gang.
“They’ve arrived,” he said. A group of eight individuals sat hunched and motionless only a few feet away.
On the Polish side of the border, this is referred described as a “intervention” by a coalition of humanitarian groups.
Grupa Granica, a coalition of roughly 14 groups monitoring the situation on the border, has come together to assist.
“As a state, we have a responsibility to help individuals exploited by the Lukashenka government,” the organisations said in a statement. They urged all parties to maintain the core values of humanitarianism “in the face of the actual possibility of an escalation of the crisis on the border.”
As the situation has worsened, this network of nonprofit groups has been doing all it can to help people in need with food, housing, medication, and clothing.
While most of the media spotlight has been on the region surrounding Kuznica in recent days — a border crossing where hundreds of migrants wanting to enter the European Union have been camped and in limbo — the Belarus-Poland border is a large one that runs over 250 kilometers.
All except local inhabitants living within two miles of the border have been denied entrance by the Polish authorities. But the trees continue well beyond that zone, and many of those who have gotten past the guards and razor wire are hidden in those woods, waiting for a chance to go on.
Persons from Syria and Yemen were among the eight people who waited in the early hours of Thursday morning. They’d been in the woods for many months. For fear of being investigated by the government, both the migrants and the relief workers requested that their identities not be used.
Migrants who make it over the border face a perilous journey. Despite the fact that the undulating farmlands and deep woodlands are seldom inhabited, escaping discovery for kilometers on foot is unlikely.
According to migrants and others acquainted with their predicament, they hide and wait for someone hired to transport them farther west, beyond Poland, where they may claim refuge.
Polish police cars sit stationed along relatively deserted roadways, ready to stop trucks and other vehicles. If they catch anyone crossing illegally, they deport them to Belarus, where many will wait and attempt again.
— Marc Santora and Maciek Nabrdalik
Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe. It borders Russia to the north, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the east. Reference: belarus people.
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