Boris loses patience on EU migrant chaos – PM blasts ‘abhorrent’ move as thousands trapped

Belarus: Migrants create makeshift camp at Kuznica border

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The Prime Minister said that the UK stands “shoulder-to-shoulder” with its European allies as EU foreign ministers consider fresh sanctions against the nation. His intervention comes as thousands of migrants – predominantly from the Middle East – are trapped at the border with Poland.

Mr Johnson also expressed about amassing Russian forces on the border with Ukraine, pledging the UK’s “unwavering support”.

The EU has already accused Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko of causing a migrant crisis at the border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, following sanctions against his regime.

Since October last year, the EU has imposed restrictive measures against Belarus.

It did so because it failed to recognise the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections in Belarus, which included intimidation and violent repression of peaceful protests against the leader.

The EU believes the elections – which saw Mr Lukashenko restored to power for a sixth time – were “neither free, nor fair.”

Mr Lukashenko reacted angrily to the sanctions, and the migrant situation is seen as a retaliation for the censure.

Speaking in July, he said: “We will not hold anyone back. We are not their final destination after all. They are headed to enlightened, warm, cozy, Europe.”

According to German newspaper Bild, in the past few months Mr Lukashenko has had more refugees flown into Belarus – including from Turkey – so that he can send them across the border into Poland.

On Friday, the UK Ministry of Defence announced it was sending a small contingent of armed forces personnel to Poland to provide engineering support at the border.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the situation between his country and Belarus as “a new type of war in which people are used as human shields”.

He attributed blame for the crisis to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who he believed was “masterminding” it.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called on Mr Putin to intervene to halt the “shameful manufactured migrant crisis”.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said this evening: “With reference to Poland, what we are seeing are the latest in a series of abhorrent attempts by the Lukashenko regime to engineer a migrant crisis to undermine Poland and others in the region.

“We stand in solidarity with our European partners and our commitment is to ensuring the Lukashenko regime is held accountable for its actions.”

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Last week, NATO accused Belarus of trying to use illegal immigration as a tool to destabilise the EU.

A NATO official described Mr Lukashenko’s tactics as “unacceptable”, adding that the alliance “stands ready to further assist our allies, and maintain safety and security in the region.”

EU foreign ministers are now anticipated to expand sanctions against Belarus, including airlines, travel agents and individuals alleged to be helping entice migrants to Europe.

General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, told the BBC that the crisis was a “classic case” where “you link disinformation to destabilisation”.

Earlier today, Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO, said the alliance had to be “realistic” about Russian threats, as it noted an “unusual concentration of troops” on the border with Ukraine.

Russia has dismissed claims that it is preparing to invade, after the Ukrainian defence ministry reported that around 90,000 Russian troops were amassing in the area.

Mr Stoltenberg noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding: “NATO remains vigilant. We are monitoring the situation very closely, and we continue to consult amongst our allies and partners such as Ukraine and the European Union.

“Any further provocation or aggressive actions by Russia would be of serious concern.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesperson described the situation at the Ukrainian border as “concerning”.

He added: “We remain in unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will continue to support them in face of Russian hostility.”

Mr Johnson issued a warning to other European nations over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would see natural gas pumped directly from Russia to the European Union, circumventing Ukraine.

He is expected to tell the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London this evening: “when we say that we support the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, that is not because we want to be adversarial to Russia, or that we want in some way strategically to encircle or undermine that great country.

“And when our Polish friends asked for our help to deal with a contrived crisis on their border with Belarus, we were quick to respond.

“And we hope that our friends may recognise that a choice is shortly coming between mainlining ever more Russian hydrocarbons in giant new pipelines and sticking up for Ukraine and championing the cause of peace and stability, let me put it that way.”

Speaking to Politico, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said the military build-up near Ukraine and the migrant crisis on the Belarusian border should not be treated as separate, but part of a coordinated Russian “strategy to shatter Europe”.

He added: “We should see everything that is happening east of the EU border and inside of the EU as part of a general effort.”

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