Monday, January 17, 2022

Belarusian leader accuses Lithuania of dumping dead migrants | AP News

MOSCOW.

Lukashenko also warned that his country would directly support its ally, Russia, if the Ukrainian authorities launched an offensive against Moscow-backed insurgents in eastern Ukraine. He tried to create tensions against migrants as part of an alleged Western conspiracy against Belarus and Russia.

Lukashenko said at a meeting with the top military command that Belarusian border guards had found the bodies of two migrants left at the border over the weekend.

“They put a corpse, or possibly a still living person, in a sleeping bag and throw it at the border,” Lukashenka exclaimed. “What an abomination!”

The State Border Guard Service of Lithuania rejected Belarus’s claim, saying that the Belarusian authorities had repeatedly tried to stage and direct beatings, mutilation or even death of migrants, accusing Lithuania of such “inhuman treatment.”

The EU accused Lukashenko of carrying out a “hybrid attack” on the bloc, using desperate migrants as pawns and tricking them into trying to infiltrate EU territory, Poland and Lithuania in order to destabilize the entire bloc. The EU says this is Lukashenka’s revenge for the EU sanctions imposed on Belarus following the brutal crackdown on democratic protests.

The Belarusian authorities denied the accusations and fired back at the European Union, accusing it of not offering migrants safe passage. Since November 8, a large group of migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, have been stuck in Belarus at the border crossing with Poland, trapped in the cold during a clash of forces from the two countries. Most migrants flee conflict or hopelessness at home and seek to travel to Germany or other Western European countries.

On Monday, Lukashenko accused Belarusian border guards of an abandoned farmhouse near the border with Lithuania.

He also ordered the military to increase the readiness of troops for NATO maneuvers near the borders of Belarus.

The Belarusian leader dismissed Western fears about Russia’s alleged plans to invade Ukraine, which also borders Belarus, saying Moscow would tell him if it had such intentions. But, echoing the Kremlin’s claims, he warned Ukrainian authorities that if they tried to use force to retake territories controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern industrial center known as Donbass, Belarus would side with Russia.

“If they try to unleash a small war in Donbass or anywhere on the border with Russia, Belarus will not stand aside, and it is clear which side it will take,” he said.

The Ukrainian authorities expressed fears that Russian troops could use the territory of Belarus to invade Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied plans to carry out such an attack and has accused the Ukrainian authorities and their Western backers of making statements to cover up their allegedly aggressive designs.

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Ludas Dapkus from Vilnius, Lithuania, and Juras Karmanau from Kiev, Ukraine contributed to this report.

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