The Czech government has approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers to help Poland stop migrants entering from Belarus, amid on ongoing crisis on the European Union's eastern flank that the West has accused Minsk of orchestrating.
According to the plan, subject to approval by both chambers of the Czech parliament, the troops will have a mandate to stay in Poland for 180 days, Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar tweeted on December 8.
If the plan is adopted, as expected, the Czechs would join similar numbers of troops deployed in Poland by fellow NATO members Estonia and Britain.
Along Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, the Czech Republic is part of the so-called Visegrad Group, which has taken a firm line on migration.
Belarus is engaged in a bitter diplomatic standoff with the West over authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka's crackdown on dissent since a disputed presidential election last year, and what the EU has called his 'weaponization' of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to create a crisis on Belarus's border with Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Minsk denies EU accusations it engineered the crisis to destabilize the entire 27-member bloc in retaliation for sanctions imposed for human rights abuses.
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For weeks, thousands of migrants have been trying to reach Poland or the Baltic states via Belarus.
The number of attempted illegal crossings into Poland has decreased in recent days, with the country's border guards reporting 51 such attempts on December 7, a fraction of the numbers seen in mid-November when several hundred people tried to cross the border in a day.
The EU has passed sanctions on Lukashenka's regime over its brutal crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement in the wake of the disputed August 2020 election.
Last week, the bloc imposed a fifth round of sanctions aimed at individuals and entities thought to be responsible for participating in the 'hybrid attack' on the EU using migrants.
With reporting by AP and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036