Putin has hit us but will lose, says interior minister
Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski has said in an interview with the Sieci weekly that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in league with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, and the migration situation at that country's border with Poland.
The comments appeared in an interview entitled 'Lukashenko and Putin will lose this war,' which will be published in full in Monday's edition of the magazine although statements by Kaminski were made available on Sieci's website on Sunday.
In the interview, Kaminski elaborates on the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border, where a state of emergency has been in force for a month due to increased migratory pressure Warsaw blames on Minsk.
"Putin is testing how strong our country is," Kaminski said. "The more weakness we show the more brutal will be the interference in our affairs.
"Russia has always been based on the weakness of the West," he continued. "We must show our determination."
The weekly wrote that Kaminski, who is also the minister coordinator of special services, "comments on the game of Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, in which our eastern neighbours are trying to exploit migrants as a tool of influence."
"Perhaps Lukashenko hopes that in this way he will force the European Union to lift the sanctions, recognising him as the legal president," Kaminski said in the interview. "But more important here is Putin, who would like to control the migrant tap, tightening and loosening it at will. And at the same time he can hide behind the Belarusian dictator and pretend he has nothing to do with it."
Kaminski goes on to state that Belarus is trying to attract more foreigners.
"We know that in recent days a decision has been taken on agreements with further countries in the issue of visa-free movement," he explained. "Among these countries is Pakistan, where we have a large group of refugees from Afghanistan, but also South Africa, from where migrants from other parts of Africa can easily come to Europe, or Jordan, where we have a huge reservoir of Syrian refugees. Belarusian airlines are launching further connections. Planes are leaving from Beirut, from Damascus, the number of flights from Turkey has been increased."
The interior minister goes on to say that due to Poland's "firm and consistent stance, Lukashenko will start to have problems.
"He was convinced that due to political correctness we would accept and legalise all (the migrants)," Kaminski said. "If for example Iraqi citizens come, there is no basis to give them refugee status, because as in the Middle East, the situation there has been quite stable for several years."
Kaminski went on to say the current situation represented a threat to Lukashenko himself and that Poland had information from intelligence and diplomatic sources that normal Belarusians were becoming progressively disenchanted with what is happening as they see hundreds of people from Asia and Africa in their cities in the evenings.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have accused the government of Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, of bringing migrants from the Middle East and then pushing them across the EU border in an effort to destabilise the EU in retaliation for sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Minsk.
On Thursday evening, Poland extended a state of emergency along its eastern border, introduced for 30 days on September 2, for another 60 days.