Warsaw, Poland – A Belarusian magazine last week ran its cover with a picture likening Polish President Andrzej Duda to Adolf Hitler.
The cover picture of the Minskaya Pravda, a bi-weekly magazine published by the regional authorities of Minsk, featured Duda with a barcode in lieu of a moustache, drawing a resemblance with the Nazi leader.
Its all-caps headline above the photograph read “Torturers!”.
The attack, part of a wider media campaign running in Belarus, comes against the backdrop of rapidly deteriorating relations between Warsaw and Minsk and amidst a worsening migrant crisis at the border between the two countries.
The Polish government, as well as top EU officials, have accused Minsk of flying in thousands of migrants to Belarus before pushing them towards Poland and the Baltic states, using them as tools to destabilize its EU and NATO neighbours.
In response, Poland has vowed not to give in to Belarus’ “blackmail” and refused to let the migrants inside the country to apply for asylum. The government erected a fence at its eastern border, reinforced police and military presence and introduced a state of emergency in the regions of Podlaskie and Lubelskie to stem the flow of arrivals.
Polish border guards recorded around 5,000 attempts to illegally cross the border from Belarus into Poland since the beginning of the month.
Poland’s harsh response has also faced criticism by a number of international organisations and human rights groups, who point to the extremely dire living conditions of migrants stuck at the border, and accuse the government of illegal pushbacks, contravening international and EU rules on asylum seekers.
Already five migrants have been found dead at the border, mainly as a result of exhaustion and hypothermia.
“We recognize that the Polish authorities are dealing with a difficult situation,” an EU Commission spokesman said. “It is essential for Poland to carry out border management duties effectively. However, this should not come at the expense of human life. We urge member state authorities to ensure that people at the border are given the necessary care and assistance.”
Contrary to Latvia and Lithuania, Polish authorities also refused help from Frontex, the EU’s border agency based in Warsaw, saying it had enough resources to protect its border itself.