Belarus has trained Afghan and Iraqi war veterans to carry out armed attacks on the Polish border, a former regime insider has warned.
“The migration crisis is being used by (Belarus president Alexander) Lukashenko to insert into EU territory people who have (military) experience and who additionally undertook training on Belarusian territory to realise terrorist acts,” Pavel Latushka, Belarus’ former ambassador to France and Poland and former culture minister, told EUobserver.
He spoke amid escalating clashes between migrants and Polish border guards, which caused international alarm on Monday (8 November).
“Next, Lukashenko will go for a local military conflict on the EU border, and in the meantime he will sell the picture to the world about a humanitarian crisis, the Europeans being to blame,” Latushka, who fled to Warsaw after joining the pro-democracy movement in Belarus, said.
“This is a form of Nazi-era propaganda,” he said.
The Afghan and Iraqi veterans were handpicked and flown to Belarus between July and September, he noted.
They were trained at a base near the village of Opsa, in north-west Belarus, belonging to ‘Osam’, the Special Active Measures Department of Belarus’ State Border Committee, he added.
The training was carried out with the help of Belarus special forces from the ‘Marjina Horka’ brigade, which had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and with advisers from Russia’s ‘GRU’ military intelligence, Latushka added.
“Iraqi citizens were trained there (the Osam base), now they are training Afghans from the territory of Tajikistan, who have combat experience. Of course, it’s not dozens of people being trained, it’s units of individuals,” he said.
“They’re preparing clashes on the Belarus-EU border with the use of weapons,” he added.
Meanwhile, Latushka’s mention of Russia’s GRU officers at the Belarus training camp came amid Polish accusations the Kremlin had masterminded the border crisis.
“Lukashenko is the contractor, but he has his principal, who is [Russian] president [Vladimir] Putin,” Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Polish parliament on Tuesday.
“What’s Russia’s game? Russia’s aiming to destabilise the EU … they want an instrument of influence and blackmail against Europe,” Polish interior minister Mariusz Kamiński added.
But for his part, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the EU should pay Belarus to take care of the migrants it has flown in from the Middle East if it wanted respite.
“Why, when refugees were coming from Turkey, did the EU provide financing so that they stayed in the Turkish republic? Why is it not possible to help the Belarusians in the same way?”, Lavrov told press in Moscow, referring to an EU-Turkey deal on Syrian refugees worth billions.