Europe faces a “synchronised” series of crises around Belarus, from the political to energy and security, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said as he again blamed Russia for being behind the migrant crisis on its border.
Speaking during his tour of three Baltic states, Morawiecki voiced alarm over tensions flaring from Belarus to Ukraine, and warned of Moscow’s “appetite to rebuild the empire” at a press conference with his Lithuanian counterpart Ingrida Simonyte.
His push to coordinate the region’s response to what he described as the first such attempt to destabilise Europe since the end of the Cold War thirty years ago follows warnings from US officials that Russia may be weighing a potential invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin denies any such intention. “This hysteria is being pumped up artificially,” the Russian wire Tass cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. “Nato needs to stop its provocative activities at our borders.”
“The things that are unfolding before our eyes, these dramatic events, may only be a prelude to something much worse,” Morawiecki said. “We’re more inclined to warn ahead of time than to regret we haven’t done so post factum.”
The visit to Estonia, Lithuania and Estonia is the first leg of Morawiecki’s planned meetings with other European leaders in the coming days that come as the tensions on the Belarus border appear to be easing.
Yet in a YouTube video posted, the Polish prime minister said that what may appear from a distance to be an ordinary migration crisis, is far more serious. “Today the target is Poland, but tomorrow it’ll be Germany, Belgium, France or Spain,” he said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko appeared to seek to de-escalate the crisis after phone calls with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He also discussed steps he said he’s taken to ease the standoff with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Lithuanian border guards said there were 44 attempts to cross from Belarus, about a third of such attempts in the previous days.
Putin accused Nato in October of threatening Russia with a military expansion into Ukraine. The high-stakes brinkmanship over Ukraine comes as the Kremlin has clashed with Europe over energy supplies and migrants trying to enter the EU from its ally Belarus.
Poland is ready to provide humanitarian aid to finance some of the repatriation costs for migrants now stranded, Morawiecki said earlier after a meeting with his Estonian counterpart Kaja Kallas in Tallinn.
The country has engaged in diplomatic talks with Iraq and other countries.
Morawiecki said Belarus is talking to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan to bring more migrants in what he described as an attempt “to take advantage of Western conscience.”
He repeated that Poland may shut all Belarusian border crossings if Lukashenko doesn’t pull back, hurting Minsk’s ability to trade with the rest of
“Steps involving increasingly serious economic sanctions are being considered, including the closure of the Belarusian-Polish border on the Polish side,” Morawiecki said in Tallinn. “We want to give Lukashenko a chance to take a step back and allow migrants to go back to their country of origin.”