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KUZNICA, Belarus. — Migrants trapped on the border between Poland and Belarus have made hundreds of attempts to breach the frontier but were repelled by 15,000 Polish soldiers deployed to stop them, according to Polish authorities.

The thousands of stranded people are caught at the center of an intensifying geopolitical dispute in which the European Union, the United States, and NATO have accused Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of manufacturing a migrant crisis on the EU’s eastern frontier to destabilize the bloc as retribution for sanctions over human rights abuses. His government denies the claims and instead blames the West for dangerous, sometimes fatal, border crossings and poor treatment of migrants.

The Polish border guard said it had recorded 468 crossing attempts by migrants Wednesday, and nearly 600 the day before, including some “large-scale” efforts with groups of more than 100 people trying to breach the fence. Polish authorities have detained small numbers of people and immediately sent others back to Belarus.

A Polish border guard representative told CNN earlier this week that some of the migrants had been pushed toward the barriers by Belarusian services.

Large numbers of people are now camped out on the Belarusian side of the Kuznica border crossing, which authorities closed on Tuesday, in dire conditions.

A perilous journey

Journalists and aid workers have been blocked from traveling to the area by an exclusion zone put into effect after Poland declared a state of emergency recently. Only local residents are permitted to enter the area after showing identification documents.

Several of those who live inside the zone told CNN the increased presence of military police and border guards has been noticeable and that they aren’t seeing more migrants than normal. Polish rights activists have said the additional troop deployment appears to have sealed the border as they haven’t received any calls from migrants seeking help in the last three days.

Youssef Atallah, a 37-year-old Syrian, arrived in Poland recently after his third attempt at crossing from Belarus. Speaking at a refugee center in Białystok, he recalled how upon arriving at the border, guards caught his group of four and he was beaten, leaving him with facial injuries, a broken nose and bruised ribs.

“They took us to the forbidden area. That was the first try to cross the border to Poland,” he told CNN. He said Belarusian officials refused to provide medical aid and repeatedly told them to head to Poland rather than return to Minsk.

While making their way through the forest, the group got separated while trying to flee Polish guards. Atallah said his memory of the journey is muddled because of his medical issues but he has been told he spent three days in the forest before he was picked up by Polish police and brought to the refugee center. While making the treacherous journey into Poland, Atallah said he had no food and drank water from a swamp. He added, “I saw stuff left by another refugee group (and) I found a cube of sugar. I just start sucking on it because I can’t chew, I can’t bite or anything.”

He said his experience of the Polish guards and at the center has been starkly different to his treatment by Belarusian officers. “They are very kind with us actually. They took me to the hospital and the crew at the hospital are marvelous. The doctors even gave me clothes.”

Despite the grueling journey, Atallah said he’d make the trip again for his family due to the perilous humanitarian situation back in Syria.

Tense border standoff

Polish authorities Wednesday posted two videos from the border that they claim shows Belarus troops firing into the ground and scuffling with people. Poland said the footage shows the tactics employed by the Belarusian services to intimidate migrants in their presence. CNN cannot verify that claim as the video is not clear enough to say what is happening — but it is yet an example of the war of words that have escalated in the conflict.

Anton Bychkovsky, the press secretary for the Belarusian State Border Committee, which is responsible for the country’s external borders, pushed back on the allegation, saying the video does not allow an objective assessment of the full picture. He described it as a likely provocation from the Polish side “with the aim of further escalating the situation and diverting attention from its own actions in relation to refugees, as well as for manipulating public opinion.”

Separate footage posted by Polish police to Twitter Wednesday showed rows of officers in riot gear with large protective shields lining parts of the border as helicopters monitor the situation from above. Aerial footage shows tents and smoke billowing from small campfires scattered along the Belarusian side of the barrier close to nearby forests. In other Polish footage shared overnight, soldiers remained information closely watching the fencing, occasionally raising torches to check any movement close by, their breath visible in the sub-zero temperatures.

In multiple videos from Polish authorities earlier this week, migrants were seen desperately trying to breach the barriers with shovels, wire cutters, and brute force.

Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have seen a surge of people attempting to enter their countries from Belarus in recent months. Many of the migrants — most of whom are from the Middle East and Asia — are hoping to travel on from Poland deeper into Europe. Lithuania declared a state of emergency for a month, which went into effect at midnight on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a video from Belarus state media showed children shouting “Germany, Germany” towards the barrier on Tuesday.

In an attempt to deter migrants, the Polish government has been sending text messages to foreign cell phone numbers in the border area which read: “The Polish border is sealed. BLR [Belarus] authorities told you lies. Go back to Minsk!” It ends by warning migrants against taking pills from Belarusian soldiers — referring to a claim from Polish officials that a migrant was given a tablet before falling ill and dying.

The press officer for the Polish border guard, Katarzyna Zdanowicz, said the situation in the Kuznica area was calm on Wednesday and that migrants had received hot food and drinks from Belarusian servicemen overnight.

Zdanowicz put the number of migrants camped out along the border at around 4,000, citing border guard estimates. She did not rule out the possibility that more people were making their way towards the border area from other parts of Belarus. However, the Belarusian State Border Committee said Tuesday there were around 2,000 migrants at the scene.

Multiple Polish officials have accused Belarus of helping migrants in attempts to cross the border. Deputy Interior Minister Bartosz Grodecki told Polish media on Wednesday that migrants are “constantly transported to the border by the Belarusian services.”

Grodecki also alleged that “apart from the Belarusian services, there are probably also representatives of the Russian services” among the crowds of migrants attempting to breach the border.