Amid a border crisis that has left thousands of migrants stranded between Belarus and Poland, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told the BBC on Friday his forces may have helped the migrants into the European Union, though he denies inviting them to Belarus in order to provoke the crisis as an act of retaliation for sanctions imposed on his country.
Lukashenko said “maybe someone helped” the migrants get to the border, though he said he refuses to look into the claim.
He said he told the EU he would not detain the migrants at the border because “they’re not coming to my country, they’re going to yours.”
At least 2,000 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, are stranded at the border between the two countries, with some forced to remain outdoors in harsh conditions before being moved to a logistics warehouse nearby.
Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since 1994, though the EU and the U.S. deemed his 2020 re-election to be fraudulent, with President Biden denouncing the regime’s detention and imprisonment of peaceful protesters, journalists and civil society leaders who opposed Lukashenko. Biden announced new sanctions against Belarus “for their role in attacks on democracy and human rights.” Last year, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was forced out of the country following Lukashenko’s re-election.
“We continue to scramble from one refugee crisis to the other, blaming other countries for our problems and denouncing reality,” Dutch Member of the European Parliament Sophie in ‘t Veld said to Al Jazeera Wednesday in response to the border crisis. “EU nations need to start implementing the common asylum policy in a unified manner.”