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Poland honors soldier who was fatally stabbed by migrant at border with Belarus

13/6/2024 6:14
        Sirens wailed and lawmakers in the Polish parliament observed a minute of silence on Wednesday to honor a young soldier who was fatally stabbed at the Polish-Belarusian border during a migration crisis that Poland says has been engineered by Russia and Belarus.
        
        The soldier, Mateusz Sitek, was stabbed in the chest by a migrant who thrust a knife through a gap in a steel fence on May 28. He died of his wounds more than a week later, on June 6.
        
        Sitek was laid to rest Wednesday in his home village of Nowy Lubiel in central Poland.
        
        "He gave his life for us, for our homeland," said <a href="https://apnews.com/hub/andrzej-duda" xmlns="http://iptc.org/std/NITF/2006-10-18/">President Andrzej Duda</a>, who attended the funeral.
        
        In Warsaw, the speaker of parliament, Szymon Holownia, asked lawmakers to "honor the sacrifice of this young hero," saying he had been "attacked by a bandit."
        
        Some lawmakers shouted: "Honor and glory to the heroes!"
        
        Sirens rang out at noon at police, fire brigade and border guard posts across the country in a sign of solidarity with Sitek, who was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant in the army and awarded a Medal of Merit for National Defense.
        
        The death has heightened a sense of insecurity that is already elevated due to Russia's war against Ukraine just across another part of Poland's eastern border.
        
        The Belarus border crisis began in 2021, when migrants began to arrive in large numbers at the European Union's eastern border, coming through Belarus and trying to enter EU member states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
        
        Poland and other EU governments accused Belarus' longtime dictator Alexander Lukashenko of luring migrants from the Middle East and Africa in large numbers with visas and other assistance in order to destabilize the bloc.
        
        The sense of threat has intensified recently. Poland says it is seeing more activity by Russian and Belarusian security forces and growing aggression at the border.
        
        Poland’s previous anti-migrant government built the steel barrier at the border and pushed migrants back into Belarus, a situation that refugee rights activists criticized.
        
        A pro-EU government led by <a href="https://apnews.com/hub/donald-tusk" xmlns="http://iptc.org/std/NITF/2006-10-18/">Prime Minister Donald Tusk</a> that took power in December has also taken a hard line on the border crossings, frustrating activists who hoped the pushbacks would end.
        
        After the attack on the soldier, Tusk's government announced that a buffer zone along parts of the border with Belarus would be created with access restrictions for people who do not live in the area, including for activists and journalists. The Interior Ministry said it would go into force on Thursday.
        
        Refugee rights groups say the buffer zone will exacerbate a dire humanitarian situation and prevent them from being able to assist migrants who cross the border and find themselves in swamps and forest areas needing food or medical assistance.
        



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