Kuznica, Poland (CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted Saturday that Russia has “absolutely nothing to do with” the ongoing crisis at the Poland-Belarus border, where thousands of people are stranded in desperate conditions.
The migrants — most of whom are from the Middle East and Asia, and who are hoping to travel on from Poland deeper into Europe — have been gathering on the Belarusian side of the border, where they are enduring bitter weather and a lack of food and medical attention.
Tensions are rising on the Poland-Belarus border. Here's what you need to know
Tensions are rising on the Poland-Belarus border. Here’s what you need to know
Western leaders are accusing Belarus of manufacturing a migrant crisis on the EU’s eastern frontier as retribution for sanctions over human rights abuses. President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied such claims, instead blaming the West for the crossings and accusing it of poor treatment of migrants.
Russia, Belarus’ largest political and economic partner, continues to defend Minsk’s handling of the border crisis while also denying any involvement in it.
“I want to tell you something else. I want everyone to know. We have absolutely nothing to do with it. Everyone is trying to impose responsibility on us for any reason and for no reason at all,” Putin said in an interview aired Saturday by state broadcaster Russia 24.
“Our aviation companies are not transporting these people. None of our companies are.”
Putin added that Lukashenko also claimed not to have any sort of involvement through Belarus’ national airline, Belavia.
“By the way, Belavia, as Alexander Grigorievich [Lukashenko] told me, is not transporting them either. They book charters, it’s a visa-free entry — people buy tickets and fly in. Yes, there are certain groups engaged in transporting these people to European countries, but they have been operating for a long time,” Putin said.