EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has accussed Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko of trying to 'destabilize the EU' by letting migrants cross into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Belarus's authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko is attempting to destabilize the European Union (EU) by facilitating illegal immigration into its member states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, claimed EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson in an interview with the Financial Times (FT) published on August 10.
"What Lukashenko is trying to do is destabilize the EU, and he is using human beings in an act of aggression", Johansson told the newspaper.
"The sanctions (recently imposed by the European Union) actually hurt him so he tries to do things to counter that", she noted. "To me it is a clear link between the sanctions and him being desperate."
The commissioner said that the EU had already sent Frontex border guards to Latvia and that the European Commission was "ready to step up if necessary" if Poland and Latvia need more support.
Johansson claimed while there were "some similarities of using migrants, human beings, instrumentalizing them" between Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "there are also important differences: what Lukashenko is doing is letting people in (from third countries) on false information."
Lithuanian officials and the European Union have repeatedly described the growing number of migrants crossing the Belarusian border as a "hybrid aggression by Belarus's regime."
Last month, Lithuanian foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis accused Lukashenko of using refugees from war-torn countries as "human shields" in an attempt to force the European Union to ease sanctions.
According to media reports, some 4,090 migrants, mainly Iraqis, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus this year -- compared to less than 100 in all of 2020.
Lukashenko rejects accusations
Lukashenko rejected the recent accusations on Monday, saying "we are not blackmailing anyone and we are not threatening anyone."
He added: "You put us in the condition of having to react and we reacted. Sorry, we are doing it as much as possible to the best of our ability", the Belarus leader was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency, during a meeting with members of the media, community leaders and experts."