Having denied his own people democracy and human rights, President Alexander Lukashenko is now seeking to destabilise neighbouring Poland and the European Union by driving desperate migrants towards the border.
Hundreds of poor people including children, mostly from the Middle East, have been directed towards the forest-lined border by armed Belarusian border-guards with dogs. According to media reports at least seven people have already died because of exposure.
Lukashenko is being accused of large-scale human trafficking with the aim of provoking a renewed refugee crisis in the European Union. The Belarusian despot has been seeking revenge for the criticism of his brutal crackdown on democracy campaigners and European sanctions which followed.
With temperatures dropping below freezing, the migrants from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan face an uncertain and worrying future as pawns along the frontier. Poland has recorded in excess of 23,000 illegal border crossings this year, with more than half of that total occurring in October. Poland has mobilised 12,000 troops to protect the border.
The border situation between Belarus and Poland may seem very far away on the other side of the European Union, however the risks of escalation and worsening relations are extremely dangerous.
Already countries in the region are stepping up their security preparations. Latvia says the situation is “alarming” and Lithuania is moving extra troops to its border. Opposition leaders in Belarus say that the United Nations and European Union must take action. They are correct.