Brussels has vowed to increase its sanctions on Belarus when it accused the country of trying to undermine its democratic neighbors by engaging in “derogatory” anti-immigration protests against EU member states.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said during his visit to Washington DC that Brussels would expand its strategy early next week, looking at individuals and “organizations”. He cautioned that Belarus’s ruling party, Alexander Lukasjenko, should understand that his conduct had value.
Thousands of immigrants have done so tried to join the EU via the eastern border in recent months, most of them arrived in Belarus by plane from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, some via Dubai.
European officials say the operation is being carried out by Minsk in an attempt to disrupt the EU, describing it as a “mixed attack” on the treaty.
After leaving a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, von der Leyen said this was a challenge for the rest of the EU, adding that “we must protect our democracies from this brutal game”.
“We are intensifying our sanctions on Belarus early next week,” he said. There has also been speculation about the possibility of airstrikes that help smuggle people to Minsk and then to the EU-Belarus border, he added.
Earlier, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blamed Belarus for “state terrorists” for addressing the migration crisis and called on the EU to take action against airlifting migrants to the region.
Morawiecki said the EU should have discussed the “blockade of flights from east to west”, without saying how it would end. “There is no doubt that Lukashenko is the cause of the problem. We need to increase speed [on him] through disciplinary measures, “added Morawiecki.
EU officials are expected to complete more sanctions in Minsk in the coming days. Belarus is ancient under EU sanctions Lukasjenko called off the protests last year following his decision to contest.
Morawiecki made the remarks after meeting with European Council President Charles Michel, who said it was acceptable for Poland and other countries to request EU funds to use for the construction of walls and walls.
“It is legally possible for the EU to have infrastructure. But that is the decision the EU must make,” Michel said.
Von der Leyen has previously said that “there will be no money for barbed wire and walls” from the EU budget after opposition by leaders including Viktor Orban of Hungary and Mette Frederiksen of Denmark in a difficult meeting last month.
The EU said EU funding could help border countries such as the control and use of drones, but banned barrier barriers.
Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge the Belarusian government to stop “using weapons” against immigrants, calling them “cruel” and illegal. Poland has accused Russia, Belarus’s ally, of “correcting” the crisis.
The Kremlin said Putin had called for EU and Belarus delegation to meet to discuss the number of migrants. But Russian officials have also accused the EU of creating a “humanitarian catastrophe” and trying to “disrupt” Belarus in preparation for closing the border.
Putin told Europeans to speak directly to Lukashenko, said an EU official familiar with Merkel-Putin’s performance on Wednesday.
“They insist on direct contact with the EU,” he said. EU officials have not been able to speak directly to Lukashenko since the 2020 elections.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Poland’s claim that Russia as the cause of the crisis as “negligent and unethical”, but added that Moscow “has already provided assistance to Belarus,” according to Interfax.
The crisis on the Polish border has been raging for months, but it erupted on Monday when a group of migrants tried to cross the border near the village of Kuznica.
Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland’s security minister, said Wednesday was “not a quiet night” at the border. The border guard said 599 attempts were made to break the border, and nine people were arrested and 48 were deported to Poland.
Polish officials estimate that there are about 3,000 to 4,000 migrants at the border, most of them in makeshift camps.
Human rights groups have criticized the Polish government for imposing restrictions on immigrants being deported from Belarus.
Additional reports by Max Seddon in Moscow