Pay up or else, Ursula! Russia orders EU to give Belarus cash to halt migrant flow

Belarus: Migrants mass at Kuznica-Bruzgi border with Poland

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Thousands of migrants have converged in Belarus near the Polish border, some of them using spades to try to break down a border fence, escalating a months-long crisis that has prompted calls for tighter Western sanctions on Minsk. Poland and the EU have accused Belarus of orchestrating the migrant flow to destabilise its neighbour.

But Mr Lavrov said the EU had to be consistent in the way it treated third countries used by migrants to cross into the bloc.

He referenced a 2016 deal under which the EU provided funds to Turkey, which promised to take back migrants and refugees who crossed the Aegean to enter Greece illegally.

Mr Lavrov said the EU could do the same with Belarus.

Countries from which refugees enter the EU “should be treated the same,” he claimed.

Mr Lavrov added: “Yesterday during certain political expert discussions it was said: why when refugees were coming from Turkey did the EU provide financing so that they stayed in the Turkish republic?

“Why is it not possible to help the Belarusians in the same way?”

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It was not clear which political discussions Lavrov was referring to.

Mr Lavrov made the comments at a news conference in Moscow with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.

Russian media cited Mr Gallagher as calling on European authorities to act to defuse the humanitarian crisis resulting from the migrant standoff.

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The Kremlin said earlier on Tuesday it was concerned by events on the Belarus-Poland border and praised specialists from its close ally Belarus for what it said was their responsible work there.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was in close touch with Minsk on the subject and called on all sides to act responsibly.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday discussed the migrant crisis by phone with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, the Belta news agency reported, saying the two leaders voiced concern about Polish troops gathering there.

The Belarusian foreign minister was due to hold talks later on Tuesday in Moscow with his Russian counterpart.

Poland said on Friday a Belarusian soldier had tried to fire flares at Polish border troops and others tried to tear down fencing along the frontier amid rising tension over a wave of migrants trying to reach European Union territory from Belarus.

Warsaw and the EU have accused Belarus of spurring illegal migrants to enter Poland and other EU states via Belarusian territory to put pressure on the bloc over sanctions it imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses. Belarus has repeatedly denied this.

The Polish defence ministry wrote tweeted: “Further provocations at the border. Yesterday, a Belarusian soldier tried to fire a flare gun towards Polish soldiers.

“Fortunately, the gun did not fire.

“100 metres away, five armed Belarusians tried to destroy (our border) fence, shouting at the same time that they would shoot Polish soldiers.”

Poland has built a barbed-wire fence along the border, where a state of emergency is in effect, to keep out arriving migrants and plans to erect a 5.5-metre (18-foot)-high wall along a 180-km (110-mile) stretch of the boundary.

Anton Bychkovsky, spokesperson for the Belarusian State Border Guard Committee, told the Sputnik Belarus news agency that the Polish side was inventing facts.

Sputnik quoted him as saying: “The adjoining side continues to escalate the situation around the situation on the border. Representatives of the Polish Ministry of Defence are in fact provocateurs themselves.”

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