Lukashenko paving a new migrant route via Moscow and Grodno

An airplane landing
An airplane landing Reuters / Scanpix

As the European Union tries to stem the news flow of migrants from the Middle East through Belarus, the country’s dictator, Aliaksandr Lukashenko, is signing new flight contracts with Russian airlines. It is known that some migrants reach the Lithuanian-Polish border not only via Belarus but also via Russia TV3.lt reported.

The flow of migrants via Russia to Belarus is not as significant as the direct flow via Minsk, but it does occur. And with the introduction of additional restrictions on airlines, the number could increase. One report showed several migrants from North Africa at the Bruzgi border checkpoint (where more than 2 000 migrants have accumulated since 8 November), who, when asked where they had come from, replied that they were from Russia. “Students from Russia” is not an isolated case in the EU border area, but a constant companion to the news of migrants apprehended at the border.

Moreover, there are large minority diasporas in Russia itself whose members are eager to migrate to the West. For example, Chechens and Dagestanis are also turning up at the borders with Poland or Lithuania, taking advantage of the opportunity opened up by Lukashenko to cross the border illegally.

“Some of the refugees from the Middle East who are currently near the European Union’s borders on the Belarusian side have come from Moscow,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said on 15 November.

Flying directly to Grodno

EU representatives have agreed with some airlines not to accept Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis from Turkey and Iraq to Belarus. However, Russian airports or airlines are not yet subject to similar restrictions. If a migrant manages to get into Russia, entering neighbouring Belarus should not be a major problem. This is also confirmed by the testimonies of migrants themselves who have entered Belarus via Russia.

Russian airline Nordwind is starting flights from Moscow to Grodno (just 10 kilometres from the Polish or Lithuanian borders) and back three times a week from 2 December.

“The flights will take about 1 hour on Embraer 190 aircraft. 50 min. Nordwind has also launched flights from Moscow to Gomel a little earlier, according to Zerkalo.

It is not yet clear whether Nordwind will be on the EU sanctions list if it does not stop flying migrants to Belarus via Russia, although it is mentioned as a candidate.

“We are aware of the diplomatic and official contacts between Belarus and Russia with Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Most likely, attempts will be made to use the crisis in Afghanistan as another option for the migration crisis. They will use the conscience of the West to link it to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Therefore, this is likely to be the next destination for migrants”, warned Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

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