Russia has condemned the West for imposing “inhumane” sanctions on its ally Belarus over a migration crisis on the country’s border with Poland.
The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada took coordinated action against a number of Belarusian entities and individuals on Thursday. They accuse the government of President Alexander Lukashenko of unleashing an unprecedented wave of asylum seekers in retaliation for existing sanctions imposed by the EU on his country. Lukashenko has denied the allegation.
In a joint statement, the Western governments said that “those in Belarus or in third countries who facilitate illegal crossing of the EU's external borders should know this comes at a substantial cost.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Saturday that the Kremlin “firmly condemn[s] the new restrictive measures against Belarus.” She described the punitive measures as “inhumane by nature, due to the negative impact they will have on ordinary Belarus citizens.”
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 European Union.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that Belarus has been "punished" by sanctions "only because we have revealed the 'dark side' of European democracy."
Lukashenko also said on Friday that he had ordered the preparation of countermeasures in retaliation for the sanctions. Minsk should respond “without dalliance and clearly,” he said. “Our economy is under external pressure on an unprecedented scale and depth.”