BELARUSIAN-POLISH BORDER: Photo shows children in a migrants camp on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region. —AFP

WARSAW: The body of a young Syrian man has been found in a forest close to the border between Poland and Belarus, Polish police said yesterday. The death brings to 11 the number of migrants found dead on both sides since the crisis began in the summer, according to aid groups. “The body of a young Syrian man was discovered yesterday in the forest near Wolka Terechowska,” police for the Podlasie region said in a statement. “The cause of the death could not be determined at the scene,” it said. Police also said that a group of around 100 migrants had attempted to cross the border during the night in the same area. “After seeing police and soldiers, the people on the Belarusian side fled into the forest,” it said.

The Polish border guards also accused Belarusian forces of destroying some barbed wire fencing laid down by Polish forces overnight, releasing a video that purported to show Belarusian forces using lasers and strobe lighting while doing so. “During the night, Belarusian soldiers attempted to take down the temporary barrier. They took down fence posts and tore up the barbed wire with a service vehicle. Polish forces were blinded by lasers and strobe lighting,” the border guard said. It also said that Belarusian forces had supplied the migrants with tear gas which was then used against Polish forces.

Thousands of migrants-most of them from the Middle East-have crossed or attempted to cross the EU and NATO border since the summer. The crisis escalated this week when larger groups of hundreds of migrants began arriving at the border and attempting to get through. Polish border guards estimate there are currently up to 4,000 migrants camped out along the border. Western countries have accused the Belarusian regime, which is backed by Russia, of engineering the crisis in retaliation against EU sanctions, charges that Minsk has denied.

Putin denies claims

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday denied claims Moscow is helping to orchestrate a crisis that has left hundreds of migrants from the Middle East trapped on the Belarus-Poland border. Blaming Western policies in the Middle East for the crisis, Putin hit back at claims from Poland and others that Russia is working with Belarus to send migrants to the border of the European Union. “I want everyone to know.

We have nothing to do with it,” he said in an interview with state television broadcast yesterday. Putin said European leaders needed to talk to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to resolve the crisis and that “as I understand it” German Chancellor Angela Merkel was ready to do so. “We should not forget where these crises associated with migrants came from... Western countries themselves, including European countries,” he said.

The migrants, mainly Kurds, have been stuck for days in a no-man’s land on the border in near-freezing temperatures, setting up a tent camp and burning wood to keep warm. Belarus says there are about 2,000 people in the camp, including pregnant women and children. Poland says there are between 3,000 to 4,000 migrants on the border, with more arriving every day.

Tents, heaters brought to camp

There is growing concern for their plight as temperatures continue to fall, with Poland refusing to allow them to cross and accusing Belarus of preventing them from leaving the area. Belarusian authorities said yesterday they were delivering aid including tents and heaters to the migrant camp - a move that could make it a semi-permanent presence on the borders of the EU.

State news agency Belta reported that government bodies were erecting tents at the camp and that a generator had been delivered. “The Belarusian side is doing everything to provide them with what they need. Water, firewood and humanitarian aid have been delivered,” Igor Butkevich, the deputy head of the state border committee, told Belta. — AFP