Merkel Asks Putin to Intervene With Belarus Over Migrants

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to intervene with Belarus over the migrant situation on that country's border with Poland.

The chancellor's office said Merkel spoke with Putin by phone and "underlined the fact that the instrumentalization of migrants against the European Union by the Belarusian regime is inhuman and completely unacceptable, and asked the Russian president to exert his influence on the regime in Minsk."

Russia is a close ally of the government in Belarus. Germany is a favored destination for migrants who arrive in the European Union.

The readout of the call released by the Kremlin said Putin "proposed to establish a discussion of the problems that have arisen in direct contacts of representatives of the EU member states with Minsk." It also said that Putin and Merkel "agreed to continue the conversation on the issue."

Polish authorities said Wednesday that groups of migrants again tried to push into Poland from neighboring Belarus.

Meanwhile, a European Union leader was expected in Warsaw to show support for the EU member country facing migration pressure and a humanitarian crisis on a border that also forms the eastern edge of the EU.

Poland's Defense Ministry and local police reported that multiple groups of migrants tried to enter the country late Tuesday and early Wednesday but that all the people who made it were detained. Hundreds of migrants have been camping since Monday on the Belarus side of the border, near the village of Kuznica.

Poland's Defense Ministry also accused Belarusian forces of firing shots into the air in a border area where migrants caught between the neighboring countries have set up a makeshift camp. The ministry posted a video on Twitter with noises of what sounded like shots.

For months there has been heavy migration by people from the Middle East seeking to enter Poland, Lithuania and to a lesser degree Latvia, all located on the EU's eastern border.

EU leaders accuse the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of opening up a new migration route into Europe to create instability in retaliation for sanctions the bloc imposed on Lukashenko's authoritarian government.

The EU imposed the sanctions over a brutal crackdown on domestic dissent following Lukashenko's disputed election to a sixth term in August 2020.

Caught in the bitter political standoff have been thousands of migrants, some of them families with children, who have been pushed back and forth in a forested area of swamps and bogs. Already eight deaths have been confirmed, but the situation grows more deadly as temperatures drop to below freezing at night.