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MOSCOW, Nov 13 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Western countries, and not Belarus, are ultimately responsible for the immigrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border, pointing to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Russia is a key ally of Belarus, which the European Union has accused of mounting a “hybrid attack” by bringing in thousands of immigrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland.
As the EU prepares to impose new sanctions on Minsk, Putin told Russian state television that he believed Belarus was not to blame for the crisis.
“Let’s not forget where these crisis with migrants come from … Is Belarus a pioneer in these problems? No, the reasons were created by the Western and European countries themselves,” Putin said.
Referring to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin noted that Iraqi Kurds and Afghans were among the migrants on the Belarusian border.
“Belarus has nothing to do with this … the fact that they came through Belarus is not surprising because Belarus … has visa-free entry for countries of origin,” Putin said.
He accused Polish forces on the Belarusian border of beating migrants and lighting lights and sirens at night near them.
“This does not fit well with the ideas of humanity that supposedly underpin all the policies of our western neighbors,” he said.
Polish police said on Saturday that the body of a young Syrian had been found in Poland, near the border with Belarus. Belarus said the number of migrants arriving at a makeshift camp on the border is increasing every day.
Putin said he expected Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the crisis, saying the migrants mainly wanted to go to Germany.
(Report by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Katya Golubkova and Helen Popper, edited in Spanish by Gabriela Donoso)