Violence erupted at the Poland-Belarus border on Tuesday, as migrants desperate to cross into the European Union threw stones at Polish border guards who responded with water cannon and tear gas.
Polish and Belarusian authorities have blamed one another for the ratcheting of tensions on the border, where thousands of people have traveled in the hope of making it into the EU only to find themselves stuck in freezing conditions.
The Polish Border Guard said Tuesday that migrants camped out near the Kuźnica-Bruzgi border crossing were behaving “aggressively,” throwing stones and various objects at the Polish services. “In order to prevent illegal border crossing, water cannons were used against aggressive foreigners,” the security agency said on Twitter.
Poland’s Ministry of Defense shared footage on Twitter showing Polish officers and soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder with riot shields as rocks were lobbed over the barbed wire border fence, describing the scene as an “attack of migrants.” The ministry also accused Belarusian services of equipping migrants with “stun grenades.”
The spokesperson for Poland’s security services, Stanisław Żaryn, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday about the clashes, describing migrants as “storming the border.”
On the Belarusian side, there were chaotic scenes as crowds of migrants could be seen breaking up concrete blocks and gathering tree branches to throw toward the Polish side of the crossing. Women and children have been moved back from the border fence, and men, many of them voicing their anger, were amassing.
“We are fighting to stay alive,” one man told CNN.
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CNN’s Katharina Krebs and Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this reporting.