Dec 01, 2021 12:11 UTC
  • Belarus to halt Russian energy flow to Europe amid tensions with Poland

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko says his government will suspend Russian energy flows to Europe in response to Poland's closure of the border with his country amid a migrant crisis.

He made the remark after Poland extended controversial emergency measures restricting access to its border with Belarus at midnight on Tuesday. The Polish Interior Ministry announced the extension of a controversial state of emergency that bars all non-residents — including journalists and aid charities — from the border area. The ban will be applied to 183 populated areas and enters force on Wednesday.

For weeks, thousands of migrants have been stranded in the freezing forests and swamplands of the Poland-Belarus border, as Warsaw has closed the frontier and prevented them from crossing over.

The refugees, mostly from West Asia, Afghanistan, and Africa, are trying to enter the European Union.

Under the state of emergency declared in the border region in September, the media and aid charities were completely banned from entering the border zone.

Warsaw says the restrictions were necessary for security reasons, but the opposition says the ban was intended to cover up rights abuses. Poland's Human Rights Ombudsman has criticized the new law, saying it gives the interior minister the right to limit freedom of movement and to limit access to information about what is happening on the border indefinitely.

At least 12 migrants have lost their lives since the crisis began in the summer, aid groups say, calling for a de-escalation and a humanitarian response to the problem.

Last month, Polish police fired tear gas and water cannons at people trying to cross the border.

Belarus then began moving hundreds of the refugees to shelters, offering them their first humanitarian aid in weeks.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said this week that Poland shared responsibility for the migrants' "acute suffering" in the border area.