Diplomats of the European Union (EU) have agreed to add 28 individuals and bodies to a list of sanctions against Belarus, repeating claims that Minsk is luring migrants to the border with Poland in retaliation for existing EU sanctions.
On Wednesday, senior EU envoys said that they had approved a list of punitive measures against Belarus drawn up by the European Commission.
The new targets, according to the EU ministers, include 17 officials and 11 companies or official bodies from Belarus. The ministers are expected to formally ratify the decision on Thursday.
For weeks, thousands of migrants have been stranded in the freezing forests and swamplands of the Poland-Belarus border, as Warsaw has closed the frontier and prevented them from crossing over.
The refugees, mostly from West Asia, Afghanistan, and Africa, are trying to enter the EU.
Poland has sent armored vehicles and troops to the border, with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko accusing Warsaw of blackmailing his country with the military build-up on the frontier.
The crisis escalated last month when hundreds of the asylum seekers tried to enter Poland illegally but were pushed back, often brutally, by Polish security forces.
At least 12 migrants have so far lost their lives since the crisis began in the summer, aid groups say, calling for de-escalation and a humanitarian response to the problem.
Minsk has adamantly dismissed the allegation that it has lured the migrants to the border.
The European Union has previously slapped sanctions on 166 people and bodies, including Lukashenko himself and two of his sons, over an alleged crackdown on protests over his disputed 2020 re-election.
Separately on Wednesday, the United States said that it too would announce new sanctions against Belarus.
“I think you will very soon see a sanctions package that's been coordinated” between the US and the EU, AFP quoted an unnamed senior US State Department official as saying.
After Polish police fired tear gas and water cannons at people trying to cross the border last month, Belarus began moving hundreds of the refugees to shelters, offering them their first humanitarian aid in weeks.