Russia is a key ally of Belarus, which the European Union has accused of mounting a “hybrid attack” by flying in thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, and pushing them to try to cross illegally into Poland, Reuters news agency reported.
As the EU prepares to impose new sanctions on Minsk, Putin told Russian state television he thought Belarus was not to blame for the crisis.
“Let’s not forget where these crises with migrants came from … Is Belarus a pioneer in these problems? No, the reasons were created by Western and European countries themselves,” Putin said.
Referring to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Putin noted that Iraqi Kurds and Afghans were among the migrants at the Belarusian border.
“Belarus has nothing to do with it … the fact they’ve come via Belarus is unsurprising because Belarus … has a visa-free entry for the countries of origin,” he said.
He accused Polish forces on the border with Belarus of beating migrants, firing rounds above their heads and turning on lights and sirens at night nearby.
“This doesn’t really tie in well with the ideas of humanity that supposedly underpin all the policies of our Western neighbors,” he said.
Putin said he hoped Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would discuss the crisis, saying the migrants mainly wanted to go to Germany and that Moscow had nothing to do with the standoff.
In recent days, thousands of refugees have settled on the Belarusian-Polish border and Polish authorities have prevented migrants from entering the European Union by placing barbed wire and deploying troops on the border. The situation on the Belarusian-Polish border is dire, with asylum seekers facing food and water shortages in extreme cold.