2021 Intelligence Brief Belarus Border Crisis

Intelligence Brief: Belarus Border Crisis


Background Information – Brief Overview

The border situation between Belarus and Poland is tense: thousands of migrants and refugees are trying to cross Poland’s  border, and thus access the European Union. The situation escalated on the 8th of November, as migrants tried to break through the makeshift border fences by force, while Polish border guards prevented the crossings with the use of water canons and tear gas. The migrants, predominantly from the Middle East,  are now stranded at the border.

The European Union accuses Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko of orchestrating the migration crisis. Lukashenko has been criticised for reportedly rigging his re-election last year and   violently suppressing resulting protests, prompting the EU to impose sanctions against him. He is therefore said to have channeled migrants through Belarus towards Poland in order to put pressure on the EU to lift the restrictions.

Although reports of migrants and flight data support the accusations, Lukashenko denies his involvement in the migration crisis. Russia is supportive of Belarus, claiming that the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are solely responsible for the surge of the migrations.

Belarus Border Crisis | October 2021

The following tweets were shared during the days leading up to the escalations on   the 8th of November. The included screenshots sourced from the HENSOLDT Analytics Media Mining System were selected based on high post potential reach (i.e., number of people who may have seen the posts) generated by the system.

HENSOLDT Analytics Belarus Border Crisis – October​

Trend Analysis: Media Mentions | September 2021

Through strategic mining of multi-media sources – including audio and text processing – it is possible to detect certain trends within the media landscape. The results span a variety of sources from different geographies and include different languages. The trend graph below shows mentions of the named entities/keywords Belarus, Migration, and Poland in traditional and social media, from 24th of October to 24th of November. Media mentions of the named entities simultaneously increase on the 8th of November, thus reflecting the first violent clash between migrants and Polish border guards.

Trend Analysis: Media Mentions September 2021

Social Media Mentions of Belarus and Poland | Heatmap Comparison

The visualisation below is a heatmap of social media posts mentioning the Named Entities/Keywords Belarus and Poland in (1) April 2021 and (2) November 2021. The comparison of the two heatmaps reveals the rapid international increase in social media users discussing the Belarus/Poland situation online.

HENSOLDT Analytics Social Media Mentions of Belarus and Poland - Heatmap Comparison

Topics Mentioned in Polish and Belarusian Media | November 2021

The word cloud tool allows for visualising names, entities, organisations and countries. Please note that the size of the font represents the number of times an entity has been mentioned. In order to obtain a high-level overview of the most mentioned topics related to migration in Polish and Belarusian media in November 2021, the word clouds below are restricted to sources located in (1) Poland and (2) Belarus respectively.

Topic of Interest: While most of the topics mentioned in the media overlap, a few deviations are visible here. One point is especially worth highlighting: The word embargo is not among the Top 30 words related to migration in the Polish Word cloud (1), while it is present in the Belarusian one (2). This shows that (further) economic restrictions of the EU are frequently discussed in Belarus, while they play a more subordinate role in Polish reporting.

Topics mentioned in Polish and Belarusian Media - November 2021

Sentiment Analysis: Media Mentions | November 2021

Additional information extracted from media mentions can provide further context about the crisis. The HENSOLDT Analytics sentiment filter analyses stories and documents and assigns values to them. The result count gauges below show that in November 2021, 5,690 media mentions with positive sentiment correlated with the keyword Belarus, while 27,158 media mentions revealed a negative connotation. The two tweets depicted below show examples of both positive and negative opinions.

Future Prospects of the Crisis

The future of the conflict is uncertain: while a few hundred migrants have returned home, the majority of the 5,000-10,000 migrants remain in the border area.

The EU has already announced further restrictions against Belarus, meaning that Lukashenko’s initial goal of having restrictions against the Belarusian economy lifted has failed. The question remains as to what his next move will be. Experts fear  that Lukashenko will further escalate the crisis.

HENSOLDT Analytics will continue to monitor the media landscape around this issue.

HENSOLDT Analytics
HENSOLDT Analytics

HENSOLDT Analytics is a global leading provider of Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) systems and Natural Language Processing technologies, such as Automatic Speech Recognition, which are key elements for media monitoring and analysis.