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EU Condemns Belarus's 'Aggressive Behavior' At Border

Updated

According to Vilnius, thousands of migrants have tried to make their way into Lithuania from Belarus in recent weeks.

The European Union has condemned what it called "aggressive behavior" by Belarus, accusing the country of conducting "a direct attack" by pushing asylum seekers across Belarus’s border with the bloc.

EU interior ministers said Belarus is seeking to "instrumentalize human beings for political purposes" after an emergency meeting on August 18 to discuss alarm over illegal border crossings into Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

"This aggressive behavior...is unacceptable and amounts to a direct attack aimed at destabilizing and pressurizing the EU," they said in a statement after the meeting.

"The European Union will need to further consider its response to these situations in order to increase its effectiveness and to deter any future attempts to instrumentalize illegal migration in this manner," the statement added.

So far this year, more than 4,100 asylum-seekers, most of them from Iraq, have illegally crossed from Belarus into Lithuania alone, but Latvia and Poland also have seen increases in migrants crossing the border from Belarus.

Poland said it had deployed nearly 1,000 troops to its border with Belarus to help border guards cope with a surge of migrants, and Lithuania sent a diplomatic note to Minsk expressing a strong protest against a violation of the Lithuanian border by Belarusian officers.

The migrant movements spiked dramatically after the EU slapped sanctions on Belarus officials in response to authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordering a crackdown on opponents and protesters after claiming victory in a vote last year that the West denounced as rigged.

Lukashenka has said that Belarus will no longer stop the flow of migrants into the EU due to the sanctions imposed by the West.

Many of the migrants were believed to have arrived in Belarus on commercial flights from Iraq. Those flights have stopped for now.

Lithuanian authorities have accused Minsk of bringing Iraqi migrants to Belarus, transporting them to the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, and pushing them into the EU member-state.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who sent the diplomatic note to Minsk, on August 18 called an incident that took place earlier this week , which was recorded, "a provocation."

"We have informed Belarus that the incident has been recorded, and it is our deep concern because we consider it another provocation, a further escalation of an already tense situation," Landsbergis said.

Landsbergis said Lithuania, a member of NATO and the European Union, had also informed officials of the two organizations about the incident.

In the video recording, a group of migrants can be seen coming through high grass followed by a line of Belarusian officers in riot gear moving toward the border. The Belarusian officers then move several meters closer, crossing the border.

Also on August 18, authorities of Latvia, which is also an EU and NATO member, said its border guards prevented 46 illegal migrants from attempting to cross the border from Belarus in the past 24 hours.

The Latvian border guard service also said that another six people had been detained since August 17 after illegally crossing the Belarusian-Latvian border.

With reporting by BNS, Reuters, AP, LETA, Delfi, TASS, and Interfax
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