EU policy toward Belarus all ‘bribery & blackmail,’ Minsk claims

Follow RT on The EU has cornered itself by antagonising Belarus, the country’s top diplomat has claimed in an interview with RT, alleging Brussels is threatening Minsk and offering financial incentives to those pushing for regime change.

There are only two elements left of the EU’s policies when it comes to relations with Belarus, the country’s Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei argued on Friday.

“There are financial promises, which they give to our fugitive politicians. They say ‘we’ll give you three billion euros, and Belarus will turn into a democracy at once.’ And the other component is the axe of sanctions,” he alleged, without naming the figures concerned.

Just two things: bribery and blackmail.

Makei insists this approach explains why Belarus and the EU have been unable to make progress in resolving the ongoing refugee crisis, which each side blames on the other.

The bloc and many foreign analysts have accused Minsk of orchestrating a sharp rise in the number of would-be asylum seekers attempting to cross into Poland and Lithuania. Its top officials have alleged Minsk is waging a ‘hybrid war’ against the West, using people as pawns. Tens of thousands of refugees attempted to cross from Belarus into the EU this year, most coming from conflict-ravaged countries like Iraq and Syria, with Brussels alleging Minsk is laying on flights to bring them in and encouraging them to head to the border.

Belarus in turn claims that increased pressure from the EU left it with a shortage of resources to properly screen international arrivals and forced its border guard to refocus attention on threats like drug smuggling. The EU’s hostility towards Minsk stands in the way of resolving the situation with a comprehensive approach that such a complex problem requires, Belarusian officials have said.

The country has been subjected to four rounds of sanctions by the EU in the aftermath of last summer’s disputed presidential elections, which the opposition, and many international observers, claim was rigged. Brussels accuses Minsk of mass violations of human rights and a crackdown on the opposition after large-scale protests saw thousands take to the streets calling for a new vote.

Read more Britain to deploy troops to Belarus border

Commenting to RT on the border crisis, Makei turned his fire on Poland, accusing it of using the situation as a distraction from its own domestic policies, which have put it at odds with Brussels. The EU is considering withholding funding of Poland from the union’s budget in response to what Brussels considers curbs on democracy and rule of law by the Polish government.

“Poland, in my personal opinion, is a totally xenophobic nation when it comes to migrants, especially migrants from Muslim nations,” Makei blasted. “Current events prove that Poland, as well as some Baltic states, are violating all possible international laws and norms of morality.”

The Belarusian minister also commented on the plans to involve British military engineers in the border stand-off, which has been reported by Poland. Warsaw has said the UK will help the Poles fortify their border against Minsk.

In contrast, Makei claimed, the UK has been in no rush to deploy the Royal Navy to the English Channel in response to record-breaking crossings by migrants there, which topped the 1,000-per-day benchmark this week. Neither did London declare a state of emergency, unlike what Warsaw did due to the situation at its border with Belarus, the official said. The UK government has in fact deployed warships to the Channel over the situation, but a plan to use the navy to deal with the crisis last year faced staunch legal opposition.

The foreign minister reiterated that his government would respond in the harshest way if the EU imposes a new round of sanctions against Belarus to punish it for the border crisis. He did not comment on remarks made this week by the country’s embattled leader Alexander Lukashenko, who suggested the nation could cut supplies of Russian natural gas to Europe that transit there via its territory, if new EU sanctions come into force. 

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hit out at the suggestion, saying “nothing good will come out of it.” According to him, such a move would be a “violation” of existing agreements and “not help in the development of our relations with Belarus as a transit country.”

The Yamal-Europe gas pipeline runs from Russia’s Yamal peninsula to Frankfurt-an-der-Oder in Germany, via Belarus and Poland. Russia’s state-backed gas giant Gazprom owns the Belarusian portion of the link.

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