The Polish army on Thursday said it had detained a group of about 100 migrants who crossed the Belarus border during the night, accusing Belarusian forces of leading the operation.

The incident came as Belarus, which has said it wants to defuse the crisis, prepared a first repatriation flight for migrants to Iraq that will have between 200 and 300 people on board.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are camped out or staying close to the Poland-Belarus border in dire conditions aiming to cross into the European Union, in a crisis that began over the summer.

The EU says Belarus engineered the crisis in retaliation for sanctions on the ex-Soviet country. Minsk and its main ally Russia have rejected the charges and have criticised the EU for not taking in the migrants seeking to cross over.

In the latest border incident, the Polish defence ministry said that Belarusian forces had first carried out reconnaissance and “most likely” damaged the barbed wire fence along the border.

 

“Then the Belarusians forced the migrants to throw stones at Polish soldiers to distract them. The attempt to cross the border took place several hundred metres away,” it said.

“A group of about 100 migrants was detained,” it said, adding that the incident happened near the village of Dubicze Cerkiewne.

“Belarusian special forces led yesterday’s attack,” it said.

Video footage released by the defence ministry appeared to show Polish soldiers surrounding a large group of migrants crouched down in a wooded area at night next to some barbed wire

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