Poland begins construction of a wall on its border with Belarus

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KUZNICA, Poland (AP) — Poland has begun building a $394 million wall on its eastern border meant to prevent migrants pushed by Belarus in what the European Union calls a “hybrid attack” from illegally entering the territory of the EU.

Journalists were allowed to view the work in the guarded area on Thursday.

Pressure by thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa on Poland and Lithuania’s forested border with Belarus began this summer, leading to clashes with Polish border guards. Poland sealed its border with Belarus with barbed wire and increased the number of guards.

EU says migrants are being used by the authoritarian Belarusian leader to destabilize the 27-member bloc in retaliation for Western sanctions on Minsk following an election internationally seen as rigged and a crackdown on the opposition.

Poland’s 5.5-meter (18-foot) high metal wall is to stretch more than 180 kilometers (115 miles) along the land part of the border with Belarus, which also includes the Bug River as frontier. It is to be completed in June, at a cost of some 1.6 billion zlotys ($394 million).

Critics and environmentalists say it will fail to stop migrants, but it will harm one of Europe’s last primeval forests, the Bialowieza Forest.

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