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Russia, NATO weigh in on Belarus-Poland crisis

With Belarus locked in a migrant standoff crisis on its border with the European Union – Russia on Wednesday took the rare step of dispatching two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace… And NATO signaled its backing for neighboring Poland. Russia’s bold show of support for its ally, Belarus, comes as European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen – during White House meetings on Wednesday – confirmed that the EU would widen its sanctions against Belarus.”We absolutely share the assessment that this is a hybrid attack of an authoritarian regime to try to destabilize democratic neighbors and this will not succeed.” The EU accuses Minsk of drawing in migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa and then pushing them to cross into Poland to try to sow violent chaos on the bloc’s eastern side. Polish government video published Wednesday allegedly shows Belarussian guards leading migrants along the border… and another, purporting to show guards confronting migrants. Belarus and its ally Russia are pointing fingers at Europe… with the Kremlin accusing the EU of failing to live up to its own humanitarian ideals and trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the frontier. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has said he’s not trying to escalate the migrant crisis… but said Belarus will not kneel down under pressure. “If God forbid, we make any mistake, if we take a wrong step, then it will instantly drag Russia into this maelstrom and it’s the largest nuclear-armed power. I am not a madman I understand very well what this could lead to. So, there is no valour here – grab an assault rifle and march to the Polish border, by the way, a place where I used to serve as a border guard. No, surely not, we realize it, we know our place.” Amid freezing temperatures, thousands of people have converged on the border this week… Where some migrants have complained of being repeatedly pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian border guards, putting them at risk of exposure, lack of food and water.

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