EU official: No dealing with ‘desperate’ Lukashenko

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The European Union stands firm on its regime of sanctions against Belarus’ authoritarian president who is “pushing” migrants into the EU out of “desperation,” a senior official from the bloc said Tuesday.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko “is not a partner we are ready to cooperate with,” and that the 27-member bloc can’t accept his actions.

“We have seen Lukashenko is a desperate person that now are under the sanctions from the European Union and he can’t really deal with that,” Johansson said after talks with Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.

“So he’s acting in … desperation, importing people for the only purpose to send them or actually push them into the European Union. And of course, we can’t accept that.”

EU members Poland and Lithuania have in recent months been pushing back an unusually high number of African and Middle Eastern migrants and refugees arriving from neighboring Belarus.

The migrant influx began after Western countries introduced sanctions on Lukashenko’s government over the country’s disputed August 2020 presidential election and a crackdown on the opposition.

The Polish and Lithuanian governments have introduced states of emergency on one-kilometer-wide (more than a half-mile-wide) strips along their border with Belarus that deny entry to anyone except border guards, the military and security services. They also are building razor wire fences along their border with Belarus.

At least five migrants have died trying to cross into Poland and Lithuania from Belarus through an area of thick woods and bogs.

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Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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