Minsk’s standoff with EU and Belarus border crisis

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Thousands of migrants have attempted to cross illegally into the European Union from Belarus since the summer in an escalation of a year-long row between Brussels and Minsk.

Poland and other European Union member states accuse President Alexander Lukashenko of engineering the crisis as payback for sanctions slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses, a charge he denies.

Here is a timeline of some key events in the standoff.

August 2020 – Protests erupt in Belarus after Lukashenko, in power since 1994, claims a landslide win in an election that foreign observers say was neither free nor fair.

May 23, 2021 – Belarusian authorities scramble a fighter jet and flag what turned out to be a false bomb alert to force a Ryanair plane to land, detaining an opposition-minded journalist who was on board. The move draws condemnation from Europe and the United States.

May 26, 2021 – Lukashenko says his country will no longer prevent migrants from crossing its borders into EU member states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

June 24, 2021 – The EU imposes wide-ranging economic sanctions on Belarus for the first time, targeting its main export industries and access to finance.

July 9, 2021 – Lithuania begins building a 550-km (320-mile) razor wire barrier on its border with Belarus, after accusing Belarusian authorities of flying in migrants to send illegally into the EU.

July 19, 2021 – EU border agency Frontex announces the deployment of 60 border guards with helicopters and vehicles to Lithuania’s frontier with Belarus following a surge in illegal crossings.

Aug. 9, 2021 – Poland reports a record number of migrants crossing the border from Belarus.

Aug 10, 2021 – Latvia declares a state of emergency along its border and starts pushing migrants back into Belarus.  

Aug 10, 2021 – Lithuania decides to erect a high metal fence to deter illegal crossings.

Aug 23, 2021 – Poland says it will build a high solid fence along its border with Belarus.

Sept. 2, 2021 – Poland declares a state of emergency in two regions bordering Belarus.

Sept. 8, 2021 – Belarus says it may freeze an accord with the EU on taking back migrants who have entered the bloc via its territory, citing “unfriendly actions” by Brussels.

Sept. 20, 2021 – Three people die after crossing into Poland from Belarus, and a fourth one is found dead on the Belarusian side of the border.

Oct. 8, 2021 – Poland accuses Belarusian services of firing shots, probably blanks, towards its troops and summons Minsk’s envoy in Warsaw.

Oct. 14, 2021 – Poland passes legislation allowing migrant pushbacks at the border.

Nov 3, 2021 – Poland says unidentified uniformed individuals armed with long guns had crossed into Polish territory from Belarus.

Nov 8, 2021 – Polish authorities accuse Belarus of preparing a major provocation, with reports of hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border.

Nov. 9, 2021 – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggests the EU consider offering financial assistance to Belarus to help stop migrants crossing the border, along the lines of a similar deal the bloc negotiated with Turkey.

(Reporting by Tommy Lund and Karol Badohal Editing by Anna Pruchnicka and Gareth Jones)

Photo – A protester hides her face behind an opposition flag as she takes part in a rally to support their current opposition leader Maria Kolesnikova, in Minsk, Belarus. EPA-EFE/STRINGER

Once you're here...