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Minsk not using issue of illegal migrants as blackmail, Belarusian President says

At the same time, according to Alexander Lukashenko, Minsk is always ready for a constructive interaction on important subjects until the West crosses "the red line"

MINSK, August 9. /TASS/. Belarus is not blackmailing anyone using the threat of illegal migration yet reacts to the West’s actions "to the best of its ability," Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with journalists and community leaders on Monday.

"The illegal migration. No, we are not blackmailing anyone. We are not threatening anyone. You simply put us in such conditions that we have to react. And we are reacting, excuse us, in the best way we can," the Belarusian president said.

He added that Belarus has fewer resources than large countries have. At the same time, according to him, Minsk is always ready for a constructive interaction on important subjects until the West crosses "the red line." "We are reacting to the best of our ability," he added.

About 300 representatives of the Belarusian community, experts and journalists are participating in the "Big Conversation with the President" held on Monday. The meeting at the Independence Palace on the occasion of the first anniversary of the presidential election in the republic is broadcast live on TV and the Internet.

Situation with migrants

At the end of May, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that his country served as a barrier on the path of human trafficking to the neighboring country, however, considering the West’s political pressure, Minsk may think twice about continuing to block the flow. In June, in response to sanctions introduced by the EU against Belarus, Minsk announced that it was suspending the readmission agreement with the Union which includes obligations by Belarus to accept illegal migrants deported from the EU who arrived from Belarusian territory.

Since the beginning of the year, over 4,000 illegal migrants have been detained on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border which is 50 times more than during the entire year in 2020. Lithuania and the EU accuse the Belarusian government of condoning the illegal migration while Belarus rejects the accusations.

Since August 3, the Lithuanian side started to take strict measures to stop the influx of migrants after the country’s Interior Ministry granted them the authority to do so. Last Friday, head of Lithuania’s Border Guard Service General Rustamas Liubajevas said that during the week, the border guards stopped about 700 migrants crossing into Lithuania from Belarus who were turned around at the border and returned to Belarus.

On Saturday, about 250 migrants were expelled and about 80 people were returned by Sunday morning. The Belarusian president accused the authorities of neighboring countries of not letting in the migrants and "returning to Belarus people who are barely alive".