BERLIN, November 25, Reuters - The European Union must be prepared to take 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.
The outgoing Chancellor 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 at a joint news conference in Berlin with her Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki.
Merkel said that defusing the situation should always be the preferred option if there is a high price for any further aggression against the sovereignty of Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine stage 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 believes is a crisis caused by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Poland has deployed military and police to the border to prevent groups of migrants from crossing over from Belarus. Morawiecki said that the bloc should consider further sanctions against Minsk, because Poland was protecting the EU and Germany from a big wave of migrants.
The EU accuses Minsk of flying migrants and pushing them across EU borders, a charge Lukashenko denies, in a bid to destabilize its western neighbours and the whole bloc.
Merkel said she thought Poland was doing everything possible to avoid any further escalation on the border, but raised concerns about the challenging conditions faced by the migrants on both sides.
Merkel said that people in Belarus are looked after in a humane way. We discussed the humanitarian situation on the Polish side of the border.