Russia criticised the West on Saturday for imposing fresh sanctions against Belarus over accusations the former Soviet nation has stoked a migration crisis on its borders with EU countries.
The United States, Canada, Britain and the EU on Thursday stepped up pressure on the regime of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko with the targets of new sanctions including his family, security officials, media figures and travel firms.
“We firmly condemn the new restrictive measures against Belarus,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, adding they were “inhumane by nature, due to the negative impact they will have on ordinary Belarus citizens”.
The EU says Lukashenko has orchestrated an influx of migrants to its borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, in response to earlier sanctions imposed over a brutal crackdown on protesters against his disputed re-election last year.
The crisis escalated last month as increasing numbers of migrants — including pregnant women and children — arrived to try to cross over into Poland.
Belarus has denied the allegations and accuses its neighbour of violently pushing back migrants.
At the peak of the crisis, some 2,000 migrants were forced to camp out in the freezing cold on the border, before border guards cleared out the makeshift camp and the migrants were moved to a logistics centre.
Polish media say at least 12 migrants have died in the border area since the summer.
But the situation has calmed down in recent weeks after discussions between European officials and Belarus, and hundreds of migrants have been flown home.
Minsk airport on Saturday said a new plane carrying 400 passengers had left bound for Iraq, bringing to 2,700 the number of Iraqis who have been repatriated since mid-November.
Most of the Iraqis who were stranded on the border have said they have spent their savings, sold valuables and even taken out loans to escape economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life in the EU.