The situation on the Belarusian-Polish border: “View from Bankova” with Oleksiy Arestovych


How will the migration crisis between Belarus and Poland affect Ukraine? What is the importance of the signed charter on strategic partnership between the USA and Ukraine.  And Russia’s provocations in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG).

We are talking about this and not only in the program “View from Bankova” on the UA TV channel with the spokesman of the Ukrainian delegation in the TCG, the representative of the Office of the President of Ukraine Oleksiy Arestovych.

Aliona Chornovol hosts the program.

– This week the key topic in the news was the migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border. Western countries point to the involvement of Lukashenko and Putin. What do you think is behind this crisis?

– There is more behind this crisis than we could think, what we could be afraid of.

In my opinion, this is Russia’s first conscious operation. One of its main goals is to finally draw Lukashenko into Russia’s orbit. Because he is so prone to harsh decisions against the background of what is happening there. And given that they oppress him, drive him into a timeout and quarrel with the European Union and NATO, he has almost no chance, he does careless things. For example, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus recently stated that Crimea is Russian territory. Before that, they did not allow themselves such things. Abstained.

Belarusian security forces are directly attacking the border with migrants. That is, they organize and send migrants to storm the border. This has been confirmed by NATO special services, and it is reported in Poland. Migrants are imported centrally with Russian assistance. They show that they are ramming NATO and the EU. Hoping to create a political crisis in Poland, and then in the European Union and NATO itself, related to further migrant policies.

Because there will always be countries in Europe that will say: let’s accept migrants, they are poor and unhappy. And others will say: in any case. For example, back in 2015, when Putin first staged a migration crisis there, Poland said that we would not accept any migrants.

They are now beating old wounds and strained relationships. The reason is very simple. The Russian leadership assumes that it is weaker than the combined EU and NATO, but stronger than any country alone. The task is to stab as hard as possible.

Russia’s involvement has been further confirmed by the fact that Russian nuclear bombers have been patrolling Belarus’s airspace for several days, they said. In fact, they are taking steps to the Polish border. And it was reported that a joint landing of Russia and Belarus was launched near Grodno (which is 5 km to the border with Poland). And two paratroopers were killed, which indicates haste.

I think this is just the beginning. This crisis will intensify. Judging by Lukashenko’s statement that weapons and ammunition were dumped there from Donbass, they plan to bring the case to the shooting, most likely. And in the future, when NATO and the EU plunge into a management crisis, transfer all efforts to Ukraine.

– How can this migration crisis affect Ukraine?

– As a military man, I can say that, in my opinion, the Russians are creating a cut-off flank for NATO so that NATO does not prevent them from exerting military pressure on Ukraine. Whether this pressure will turn out to be real operations (as claimed by both the Ukrainian leadership and the top US military and political leadership), blackmail, threat and a set of disinformation influences with energy pressure, with an attempt to shake the situation inside – we will see.

But from a military point of view, as soon as the first migrant began to break the fence on the border with Belarus, the operation began. And the main goal is Ukraine.

It is creating problems for Poland to NATO to solve its problems and think more about its problems than about helping Ukraine.

– Against the background of this tension at the border, we see a lack of progress in the diplomatic field. Russia continues to refuse to meet in the Normandy format, even at the level of foreign ministers. Is the Russian Federation able to go on the offensive in such a situation?

– Capable. Moreover, a very interesting thing happened during the TCG meeting. For the first time in a year when I work there, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova began announcing the results of the TCG while the meeting was still going on. The meeting continued, and she has already begun to announce its results, prepared in advance.

The results were very simple: that we are pumping up military force, that Kyiv wants to attack Donbas first, and that NATO is helping it. That France and Germany have taken Kyiv’s position, and that NATO is helping them form groups in the Black Sea, Putin later said. At that time, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Lavrov and the Minister of Defense Shoigu were in France. And Lavrov said that we would talk seriously with France about Ukraine.

That is, they are pushing on the diplomatic front, traditionally trying to blame them and our allies and partners, accusing us of what they want to do themselves, as is usually the case.

The situation is bad, I’ll tell you right away. For the first time since 2014, the level of military danger – political, hybrid – is similar to the level of late 2013, early 2014, when they were already preparing to capture Crimea.

Two of the good news. The first. Everyone understands this very clearly. The head of the President’s Office, Andriy Yermak, and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have returned from the United States, where they have signed a charter on a strategic partnership between the United States and Ukraine. And if the charter of the 2008 version had 4 security points, then there are already 12 security points. That is, tripled the number.

Judging by the talks held by the Ukrainian delegation in the United States, they are well aware of the danger. No wonder the group is strengthening in the Black Sea. They are preparing for various possible scenarios in the region.

The second news is that we interact on a regional scale. That is, the Ukrainian leadership cooperates very closely with the leadership of Poland and the Baltic States. And it takes certain measures, in particular, 8.5 thousand law enforcement officers are transferred to the Ukrainian-Belarusian border to, if necessary, repel the flow of migrants redirected by the Russian and Belarusian special services to the northern border of Ukraine.

– You mentioned the charter on strategic partnership. In simple words, what will this document give us?

– Everything is very simple. This is an intergovernmental agreement on long-term strategic cooperation, where the main emphasis is on Ukraine’s energy security and Ukraine’s security against the threat posed by the Russian Federation.

The United States reaffirms that it is our longtime and reliable ally. And consistently do not recognize the attempts of the Russian Federation to annex Crimea, to occupy Donbas. They will stand guard over the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, they will help us actively.

The principles of this cooperation are spelled out – it is to help in the energy sector, democracy development, promotion in the EU and NATO.

Such documents take a long time to prepare and are thorough. And this charter will be implemented within the practical work of the Ukraine-US Commission. We will interact very actively with the Americans.

This interaction has already been confirmed in practice. And the visit of the Ukrainian delegation to the United States was very successful. A lot of formal and informal things have been decided and agreed for the future.

– Is there an understanding when we should expect a return visit from guests from the USA? For example, President Zelenskyy invited his American counterpart Joe Biden to Ukraine.

– I think such a visit is possible. But a month ago, US Secretary of Defense Austin visited Ukraine, during which urgent issues of Ukraine’s military security were resolved.

– There is also information that tomorrow, November 15, a joint online meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, France and Germany may take place without a representative from the Russian Federation. What results are we waiting for?

– We all expect, for example, for the release of prisoners, the opening of the check-points and so on.

I would like to remind you that the Stanytsia Luhanska check-point has reopened at the urging of the Ukrainian side and the OSCE. And it has been working for several days, albeit with restrictions. The Russian occupation authorities allowed citizens to cross this checkpoint only once a month. But this is enough to receive, for example, pensions or social benefits.

Regarding the meeting of foreign ministers without Russians. Given that the key to the situation is in the head of one person, his name is Vladimir Putin, here, rather, the parties will talk and try to develop a common position on, first, the pan-European crisis, which is developing in connection with the situation on the Polish border . And secondly, on a further joint strategy in the Normandy and Minsk formats.

The fact is that the Russian Federation, judging by its rhetoric and the rhetoric of the Foreign Ministries of France and Germany in response, entered into a clinch on this issue. The Russians accused the French and Germans of indulging Ukraine in calling Russia a party to the conflict in the new program plan for the implementation of the Minsk agreements (the so-called Franco-German clusters). The Russian Federation is extremely dissatisfied with this.

– Regarding the energy issue. The Ukrainian delegation of the TCG paid special attention to the Russian fake that Kyiv was allegedly ready to buy coal from temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Where did such misinformation come from, why is it thrown in?

– First, it testifies to the methods of Russian diplomacy. We cannot work properly in the TCG, we are forced to engage in informational, diplomatic confrontation.

The second moment. They violated the Copenhagen and Vienna negotiating principles, which prohibit the disclosure of the content of the negotiations. In this regard, the Ukrainian delegation has already asked the OSCE representatives to express their position.

What really happened? The head of the subgroup on the Ukrainian side, Viktoria Strakhova, a very high-level expert, told the Russian side that the Luhansk power plant in the town of Shchastia (territory controlled by Ukraine, ed.) is running out of thermal coal (brand “anthracite”, ed.) supplying by Russian Federation. And this station provides heat and electricity to civilians living in controlled areas. As well as the Popasnyansky district water canal, which supplies water on both sides of the demarcation line, including the temporarily occupied territories.

In other words, civilians on both sides of the front line will suffer, which is an unacceptable situation and directly contradicts the spirit of the Minsk and Normandy agreements, which prohibit aggravating the situation of residents. That’s what we mentioned. And that we have gathered in the TCG in order to improve their situation, or at least not to worsen it. In this regard, Viktoria Strakhova expressed hope that the Russian side understands this, and both sides are interested in not worsening the situation of civilians. All.

They (the Russian side) have already stated that we have asked to supply coal from the occupied territories. The purpose of this propaganda is to strike at the military and political leadership of Ukraine, to sow another betrayal. And it would have started and could be another scandal if it started to spread in the media, if we did not react late at night and they did not refute. Here are their methods and modes of action.

To remind, migrants do not stop trying to break through the Belarusian-Polish border. Meanwhile, ordinary Polish people are trying to help refugees, including pregnant women and children.

Read also: Germany proposes to place migrants from Belarus in Ukraine