Ukraine to hold drills on Belarus border to guard against migrant incursions

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KYIV, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Ukrainian border guards, police and the national guard will hold drills on the border with Belarus on Thursday aiming to protect the country from possible attempts by migrants to breach the frontier, Ukraine’s interior ministry said.

“In order to counter the potential crisis with migrants, we will involve all five structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs without exception,” Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy was quoted as saying in the statement.

While not a European Union member, Ukraine is wary of becoming another frontier in the migrant crisis on the Poland-Belarus border.

Ukraine will double the number of border guards on its frontier with Belarus to prevent any attempts by migrants to enter the country illegally, Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said earlier.

Migrants trapped in Belarus made multiple attempts to force their way into European Union country Poland overnight, Warsaw said on Wednesday, announcing that it had reinforced the border with extra guards.

Ukraine, which is not in the EU, has a border with Belarus that is 1,084 km (674 miles) long.

Monastyrsky said national guard and police reserves would be involved in reinforcing the frontier.

“Mobile groups … will move along the border to detect illegal border crossings,” he told a televised briefing after a meeting of Ukraine’s security and defence council chaired by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The council’s secretary, Oleksiy Danilov, said earlier on Wednesday that the situation on Poland’s border with Belarus was the main topic of the meeting.

Poland and other EU member states accuse Belarus of encouraging the migrants – from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa – to illegally cross the border into the EU in revenge for sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.

The 27-nation bloc is considering imposing sanctions to punish Minsk for what it calls an artificially created crisis, something Belarus denies.

Russia blames the EU for the crisis, accusing it of trying to “strangle” Belarus with plans to close part of the frontier and urging it to talk directly with Minsk.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage

Photo – Ukrainian soldiers ride an APC at the Yavoriv training ground, near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/MYKOLA TYS

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