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November 19, 2021 27 min

For three decades, President Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus, a former Soviet nation in Eastern Europe, ruled with an iron fist. But pressure has mounted on him in the past year and a half. After a contested election in 2020, the European Union enacted sanctions and refused to recognize his leadership.

In the hopes of bringing the bloc to the negotiating table, Mr. Lukashenko has engineered a migrant crisis on the Poland-Belarus border, where thousands from the Middle East, Africa and Asia have converged.

What are the conditions like for those at the border, and will Mr. Lukashenko’s political gamble reap his desired results? 

Guests: Monika Pronczuk, a reporter covering the European Union for The New York Times; and Anton Troianovski, the Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times. 

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Background reading: 

  • Poland massed thousands of troops on its border with Belarus to keep out Middle Eastern migrants who have set up camp there, as Western officials accuse Belarus’s leader of intentionally trying to create a new migrant crisis in Europe.
  • Belarusian authorities on Thursday cleared the encampments at the main border crossing into Poland, removing for the moment a major flashpoint that has raised tensions across the continent.
  • For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday. 

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