ALEXANDER Lukashenko yesterday admitted Belarusian special forces may have helped hundreds of asylum seekers to illegally cross into Europe.
The Belarusian dictator, who has been accused of luring thousands of migrants from the Middle East in an attempt to break through the Polish border, told the BBC it was “absolutely possible” his army had been involved. “Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany. Maybe someone helped them,” he said.
Poland yesterday said two groups of migrants had attempted to storm the barbed wire fence that is the EU’s frontier – one made up of around 500 people. Warsaw has previously released footage from the border of Belarusian soldiers cutting through the fence at night.
Known for his freewheeling and incendiary speeches, Mr Lukashenko suggested humanitarian concern was driving his soldiers’ actions. “We’re Slavs, we have hearts,” he said. The dictator, however, denied that he had engineered the crisis on the border by offering visas and cheap flights to migrants from Syria, Iraq and Turkey – along with the promise of easy access to Europe. “I didn’t invite them here,” he said. “And, to be honest, I don’t want them to go through Belarus.”
The team of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus’s exiled opposition leader, criticised the BBC for the interview with Mr Lukashenko, describing it as “giving the floor to a dictator”.
Despite the latest attempt to breach Poland’s border, there were signs yesterday that the crisis may be on the wane.
The camp where thousands of migrants had gathered just feet from the fence has begun to empty out, with helicopter footage showing abandoned tents and piles of wood.
Around 400 Iraqi migrants were flown home on Thursday and Mr Lukashenko has pledged to repatriate 5,000 more. The dictator, who has been an international pariah since crushing protests against his rule last summer, appears to have backed down after talks with Angela Merkel.
The outgoing German chancellor this week became the first European leader to contact Mr Lukashenko since he unleashed a crackdown on civil society following protests.
Mr Lukashenko requested to be recognised as the legitimate president of Belarus, according to German media.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who remains the only major ally of the Belarusian regime, called Mr Lukashenko for the third time this week yesterday, stressing the need to engage with Europe.
Telegraph Media Group Limited