Alyaksandr Lukashenka threatened on Friday that Belarusian authorities would not stop illegal migrants from reaching the European Union until the 27-nation bloc lifted its sanctions on Belarus.
"We catch thousands of migrants, stop tons of drugs. And when they started strangling us, I told the border guards, 'Why should we catch them? They have come not to our country, let them go where they want.' And we started looking at some things in this way," the presidential press office quoted Mr. Lukashenka as saying.
He said that Lithuania and Poland were struggling to cope with illegal migration following his decision to loosen border security and pleaded with Minsk to resume stopping illegal migrants at the shared border. "I say, 'No guys, I will no longer protect you until you calm down and stop brandishing sanctions'," he was quoted as saying.
In another scenario, he said, the European Union could pay millions of dollars to Belarus every year to cover its cost of stopping illegal migrants at the EU borders.
"That means that not only they teach us but we also start making them used to respecting and appreciating us and realizing that we are not creating any problems for the European Union, we are doing only good to them. We have not posed a threat to anyone, we don’t even have such a thought, we do not take away anything from anyone," Mr. Lukashenka said.
Mr. Lukashenka reportedly suggested that the EU used its criticism of Belarus to divert attention from problems in Europe and show that "the situation in other countries is bad and the EU is dealing with this."