Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has accused Belarus of trying "to destabilize" his country politically by what he described as a "constant assault" at the border by migrants. "Obviously it's not a migratory crisis, it's a political crisis purposefully launched by [Belarusian strongman Alexander] Lukashenko," Rau told DW. He claimed that migrants mostly from the Middle East, trying to get to the EU through Belarus, were "orchestrated, encouraged and supervised by the Belarusian authorities."
"You have to keep in mind that the migrants were first brought to Minsk by Belarusian authorities where they were instructed, some of them even trained how to behave at the border, how to cross it, certainly illegally, and how to deal with the police, border guards and so on," the foreign minister said.
Rau suggested that in the situation with migrants Minsk might also be supported or "supervised by Russian partners" of Lukashenko. "Certainly, conceptually, logistically, politically, Lukashenko alone would not afford to do it on his own," he said. The migrant issue, he said, should be seen in a wider context around the Russian military build-up near Ukraine as well as soaring gas prices. He blamed Russia for using the situation "as a leverage in order to break the European solidarity and unity."
Addressing the current situation in Ukraine where Russian troops at the border have raised concerns in the West, Rau said: "We have to acknowledge the right of Ukrainians to defend themselves. We will support them the way they ask for."
Sanctions against economic entities
The EU recently approved new sanctions against Belarus, targeting those believed to be responsible for smuggling migrants, including the state-owned airline Belavia.
"If the situation unfolds in this direction that we are facing right now certainly there's no alternative to more sanctions," said Rau. "Right now the sanctions should be imposed not only on the people who are involved in the human trafficking, human smuggling and all those responsible for bringing these poor deceived people from the Middle East to Belarus, but also on the (economic) entities as an instrument in these vicious criminal activities," he added. "It's time to move forwards this kind of sanctions, to make them most severe."
Responding to the question whether Russian individuals and companies that help the Belarusian authorities should be sanctioned too, Rau said such "suggestions could be on the table." He said that the EU would have to reach consensus on this issue.