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Merkel says Russian aggression against Ukraine should lead to EU sanctions

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The European Union must be prepared to enact more sanctions against Russia if the situation in and around eastern Ukraine or on the Belarus-Poland border escalates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

Merkel spoke both with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland on Thursday.

Both Russia and Ukraine staged military drills this week after weeks of rising tensions between Kyiv and Moscow, while thousands of migrants from the Middle East and other hotspots are stranded on the European Union’s eastern border, in what the bloc says is a crisis engineered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

In her conversation with Zelenskiy, the outgoing German leader expressed her support and noted that any attempt to undermine Ukraine’s independence “would not go without consequences” but that defusing the situation should always be the preferred option, her spokesperson Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.

In her meeting in Berlin with Morawiecki, Merkel said the EU had to be united on the issues of Belarus’s “weaponisation” of migrants against Poland and Russia’s deployment of troops to near its border with Ukraine.

Poland has deployed military and police to its border with Belarus to prevent groups of migrants from crossing over.  Morawiecki said by doing so, Poland was protecting the EU and Germany from a “big wave” of migrants and said the bloc should consider further sanctions against Minsk.

The EU accuses Minsk of flying migrants into the country and sending them across EU borders in a bid to destabilise its western neighbours and the whole bloc. Lukashenko denies that is the case.

While Merkel said she thought Poland was doing everything possible to avoid any further escalation on the border, she raised concerns about the challenging conditions faced by the migrants on both sides.

“We have an interest that people in Belarus are looked after in a humane way,” Merkel said. “We have also discussed the humanitarian situation on the Polish side of the border.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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