The dramatic situation of migrants on the Belarusian border prompted Chancellor Merkel to speak to the ruler Lukashenko for the first time. She wants to prevent an escalation at all costs.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) called the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko on the phone in view of the increasing need of several thousand migrants on the EU’s external border between Poland and Belarus. This was announced by government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday evening in Berlin. The phone call was about “the difficult situation on the border between Belarus and the European Union”.
According to a report on Belarusian State Television, the conversation lasted about 50 minutes. It was discussed, for example, how an escalation of the situation at the border could be prevented. It was also about humanitarian support for migrants stuck in the border area. According to Seibert, Merkel and Lukashenko have agreed further talks. It was the first contact with a Western government since Lukashenko claimed victory in the presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020.
The EU no longer recognizes him as President because of the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators by the security forces. Sanctions were imposed on the country.
The EU accuses Lukashenko of bringing refugees from crisis regions to the EU’s external border in an organized manner. It is suspected that he wants to avenge himself for the EU sanctions.
At the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed the expectation that Merkel would start talks with Lukashenko. There are also high expectations of Germany among migrants. Putin had appealed to Merkel to seek dialogue with Lukashenko.
Putin and France’s head of state Emmanuel Macron spoke out on Monday evening for a de-escalation of the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. In a long telephone conversation, the two also talked about the role that Russia could play in resolving the conflict, as it was subsequently called from Elysée circles.
The migrants must be respected. Paris hoped that the conversation would have a positive impact on the local situation. From the French point of view, the aim of the call was to end the crisis. According to the Kremlin, Putin said that the heads of the EU states should discuss the problem directly with Lukashenko. He also criticized Poland’s border guards for its “tough crackdown” on migrants.
The USA announced new sanctions against Belarus because of the refugee crisis. The punitive measures in the face of the “inhuman” actions of the government in Minsk would be prepared in “close coordination with the EU and other partners and allies,” said the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, on Monday.
The leadership of rulers Lukashenko must be held accountable for their “persistent attacks on democracy, human rights and international norms,” said Price. “We condemn their heartless exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people and the inhumane support for illegal flows of refugees across their borders.” Price also referred to the tightening of sanctions against Belarus initiated by the EU foreign ministers on Monday.
The foreign ministers of the EU states decided on Monday a new sanction instrument against those involved in the smuggling of migrants to Belarus. The EU will now be able to target people and institutions who are helping the Belarusian regime to instrumentalize people for political purposes, said the Council of Member States.
Poland intends to start building a permanent fortification on its border with Belarus this year, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski wrote on Twitter. Poland has already put up a temporary fence along the border. This is a barbed wire fence around 2.50 meters high. This is now to be replaced by a permanent barrier 5.5 meters high, which is equipped with motion detectors and cameras.