Germany supports new EU sanctions against Belarus, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, accusing Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of “unscrupulously” exploiting” migrants by sending them to the Polish border.
“We will sanction all those who participate in the targeted smuggling of migrants,” Maas said in a statement.
“Lukashenko must realize that his calculations are not working,” he said, adding that the bloc will work to “extend and tighten EU sanctions against Lukashenko's regime”.
“The European Union cannot be blackmailed,” he added.
Thousands of desperate migrants were trapped in freezing weather on the border between Belarus and EU and NATO member Poland on Tuesday, with Warsaw accusing Russia and the government in Minsk of using them to threaten European security.
Western critics have for months said Lukashenko is luring migrants from the Middle East to his country to send them across the border in retaliation for EU sanctions.
Describing the scenes at the Belarusian borders as “horrific”, Maas said Lukashenko was spinning a “dangerous spiral of escalation from which there is no way out for himself.”
Besides new sanctions on top of those already imposed on Belarus over Lukashenko's heavy crackdown on the opposition after a disputed election last year, Maas said the EU is also prepared to act against other countries and airlines involved in the transit of the migrants.
“No one should be allowed to participate in Lukashenko's inhumane activities with impunity, said Maas, warning that “we as the EU are prepared to draw consequences here as well.”