On Polish-Belarus border, migrant crossings decrease but tension remains

Journalists from TVN television record a live report after media representatives were allowed to be present in the border zone, at the Kuznica-Bruzgi checkpoint on the Polish-Belarusian border amid the migrant crisis, in Kuznica, Poland, December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

KUZNICA, Poland (Reuters) - Fewer migrants are trying to cross the frontier between Poland and Belarus, but the Polish Border Guard told journalists visiting the previously off-limits border zone on Monday that it still faces provocations from Belarusian forces.

Reuters was among a group of journalists permitted to enter the area around the Kuznica border crossing on Monday, scene of what the European Union has said is a humanitarian crisis engineered by Minsk. Belarus says the accusation is absurd.

Under a state of emergency introduced in September journalists were banned from the area around the border, but new rules that came into force in December allow the media to enter with the permission and the supervision of the Border Guard.

"Despite the decreasing number of attempts to illegally cross the border, we still have to deal with provocations from the Belarusian side," said Polish Border Guard Captain Krystyna Jakimik-Jarosz, speaking near the Kuznica border crossing, the site where Polish security services turned water cannon on stone-throwing migrants in mid-November.

"That is how it was yesterday... we saw on the Belarusian side a car of the Belarusian security services from which Belarusian soldiers every dozen or so metres were throwing firecrackers."

Jakimik-Jarosz said the incident had happened near the village of Narewka.

The Belarus State Border Committee was not immediately available to comment.

On Sunday there were 35 attempts to cross the border. By contrast, on Nov. 17, 501 attempts were reported.

Critics say the lack of media access to the border zone was designed to cover up rights abuses by Polish authorities, and that reporters and charity workers should have unlimited access. Poland denies this and says that limits are necessary for security reasons.

For Kuznica resident Czeslaw Sacharko, the security services are helping people who live in the border zone feel safe.

"There is no threat to the residents of Kuznica, we live safely thanks to... those people who work directly on the border," he said.

(Reporting by Kacper Pempel, additional reporting by Matthias Williams and Natalia Zinets, writing by Alan Charlish, Editing by William Maclean)

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