By Andrius Sytas and Joanna Plucinska
KAPCIAMIESTIS, Lithuania/WARSAW (Reuters) – Countries that border Belarus warned on Thursday that the migration crisis on the European Union’s western borders could turn into a military conflict, and Ukraine has said it will mobilize thousands of additional soldiers to bolster its border.
Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia said Belarus poses serious threats to European security by deliberately stepping up its “hybrid attack” by using immigrants to retaliate against EU sanctions.
“This increases the possibility of provocations and serious incidents that could also spill over into the military domain,” said a joint statement from the countries’ defense ministers.
Although not a member of the EU, Ukraine fears that it will become another hotbed of friction in the growing migration crisis. Kiev announced exercises and the mobilization of 8,500 additional soldiers and police for the long northern border with Belarus.
Immigrants stranded in Belarus hurled rocks and branches at Polish border guards and used logs to break through a wire fence at dawn during new attempts to force entry into the European Union, Polish officials said.
The EU says Belarus is encouraging thousands of migrants fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross its borders and could impose new sanctions on the Belarusian government and airlines that transport the migrants from Monday.
(By Alan Charlish in Suprasl, Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw, Andrius Sytas wm Kapciamiestis, Lithuania, Sabine Siebold, Robin Emmott and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Maxim Rodionov, Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Pavel Polityuk in Kiev)
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