EU FMs agree on new sanctions against Belarus

Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) have agreed on new sanctions against Belarus over the ongoing migrant crisis, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said.

Addressing a press conference after the Ministers’ meeting on Monday, he said the new set of sanctions had been “politically adopted” and “will be finalised in the coming days”, reports Xinhua news agency.

The sanctions will affect “quite an important number” of individuals and entities, he added.

“By expanding the scope of the sanctions, we will be able to target those responsible for exploiting vulnerable migrants and for facilitating illegal border crossing into the EU,” Borrell said.

The EU has been blaming Belarus for the current migrant crisis at its external borders.

Belarus has denied the accusation and expressed its readiness for dialogue.

The country’s official BelTA News Agency reported on Sunday that Belarusian Foreign Affairs Minister Vladimir Makei had told the EU that his country would try to reduce migrant flows from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to the bloc.

In his address on Monday, Borrell said that he had spoken to Makei and demanded that assistance should be given to provide humanitarian aid to the stranded migrants.

Also on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held a phone conversation on the situation at the border, especially regarding humanitarian aid for the migrants there, according to media reports.

So far, 166 individuals and 15 entities have been designated under the EU’s sanctions on Belarus, according to the bloc’s external action service.

According to Lukashenko, the sanctions have dented his country’s ability to tackle the crisis.

Meanwhile, Poland’s Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik said Monday that thousands of migrants were trying to cross from Belarus into his country near the Kuznica border crossing.

“Thousands of migrants have moved from their camp to the closed Kuznica crossing under the supervision of Belarusian security forces,” Wasik said in a tweet, adding that the Polish authorities were “ready for every scenario”.

The Polish Defence Ministry said that the number of migrants gathered at Kuznica has been steadily growing.

The latest reports estimated their number at between 2,000 and 4,000.