President Vladimir Putin said Russia isn’t behind the migrant crisis playing out at the Poland-Belarus border, but instead is ready to help resolve it.
Putin stated that he was aware of the developments at the border from reports in media. A senior EU official claimed that the EU foreign ministers would be working Monday on the framework to add additional sanctions against Belarus.
“We are ready to contribute to this in every possible way, if of course, something depends on us,” Putin said.
Poland accused Russia of orchestrating thousands of illegal migrants crossing the border from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan in order to gain entry into the EU.
Premier Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced Sunday that Poland (Litauen), Lithuania (and Latvia) are looking into asking NATO to host emergency talks on the standoff.
Putin’s economic and political backing allowed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to weather mass demonstrations against his 27-year rule in 2020, as well as U.S. and EU sanctions imposed after his brutal crackdown on the opposition. It’s unlikely Lukashenko makes many bold decisions without the blessing of his Kremlin ally.
An authoritarian leader, he has increased his stance against the west and used migrants to attack the West.
“The actions by the Lukashenka regime threaten security, sow division, and aim to distract from Russia’s activities on the border with Ukraine,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Sunday.
Writing in the Telegraph on Saturday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Russia bears “clear responsibility” for the border situation and should put pressure on Minsk to end the current standoff. She claimed that the current situation regarding migrants is carefully planned.
“This carefully crafted crisis is an attempt to divert attention away from the litany of abhorrent acts and human rights violations that the regime has already committed,” Truss said of the Belarusian government.
In Sunday’s interview Putin rejected the accusations: “We have absolutely nothing to do with this, just absolutely. It’s just a desire to transfer problems from a sick head to a healthy one.”
The ministry stated that Vladimir Makei, Belarus’ foreign minister, spoke with Josep Borrell on Sunday.
According to the release, the pair discussed the “difficult migration situation” at the border of Belarus and EU. Belarus said it was ready for “mutually respectful” dialog.
In a tweet after the call, Borrell said the current situation “must stop. People should not be used as weapons.”
Additional sanctions are being considered by the EU against Belarusian companies and officials. An announcement is expected to be made later in this month. Monday’s meeting will focus on the legal framework for expanded sanctions, the Financial Times reported, citing Borrell.
Poland is concerned about increasing attempts by migrants, who have been pushed to its border by Belarus servicemen, to break through the makeshift barbed-wire fence running along the EU’s eastern frontier.
Morawiecki stated to PAP that he might request talks in accordance with Article 4 of NATO’s treaty. It allows any NATO member to request consultations if its territorial integrity, political autonomy, or security are under threat.
The Polish-Belarusian border “will be an effective and final frontier” to Lukashenko’s actions, he was cited as saying by PAP.
Belarus TV showed pictures of Red Cross staff distributing food, water and other necessities inside large tents on Sunday. It could be indicative that there is a larger migrant population at the border. Belarus has estimated that there are approximately 2,000 migrants living in the region.
—Assistance from Konrad Krasuski