Eastern Europe eyes Iron Curtain with Belarus to cut off Russia

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania are said to be in talks with Ukraine to close their borders with Belarus, in a bid to block supplies from Russia.

Ukraine’s Ambassador to Poland Andrii Deshchytsia said Ukrainian officials were in talks with the Polish government to “completely close” the country’s border with Belarus, according to Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform.

“We are in talks with the Polish Ministry of Infrastructure, with the Polish government, in order to completely close the border between Poland and Belarus – even if the decision is not taken at European Union level,” said Deshchytsia.

Deshchytsia added that negotiations are also underway with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which have no border with Belarus.

“We also appealed to these countries to simultaneously close their borders with Belarus and Russia,” he said.

“I think that if such a decision is taken, there will be no need to wait for the decision of the European Union – we will completely block all supplies to Russia.”

A Latvian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Newsweek that Latvia “strongly supports the current sectoral sanctions against Belarus as well as personal sanctions against Belarusian politicians, police, military and business actors in connection with fraudulent presidential elections, embezzlement of an airliner, the hybrid attack on the borders of the EU and the participation in the attack of Russia on Ukraine.

“New sanctions and restrictive measures against Belarus are being considered.”

The EU imposed new sanctions on Belarus last year after a Ryanair flight was hijacked to Minsk, the Belarusian capital, and a dissident journalist on board was arrested.

An Estonian diplomatic official, who did not wish to be named, said Newsweek that Tallinn is aware of the Ukrainian proposal, but added that there have been no discussions on implementation.

Newsweek contacted officials in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Lithuania for comment.

On Wednesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the United States for an additional $500 million in aid announced earlier in the day, but called for more aid after Russian forces reneged on a promise to reduce some military operations.

“If we really fight together for freedom and for the defense of democracy, then we have the right to demand help in this difficult turning point. Tanks, planes, artillery systems. Freedom should not not be armed worse than tyranny,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address, according to The Associated Press.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin told reporters on Tuesday that Russian forces would withdraw from Kyiv and Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, to “increase mutual trust and create conditions for new negotiations”.

But Zelensky was skeptical, saying the signals “do not drown out Russian shell bursts”.

Hours later, Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian forces were shelling civilian sites in or near Kyiv and Chernihiv.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, now in its fifth week, has claimed many lives on both sides.

The number of Ukrainians who have fled the country since February 24 has exceeded 4 million, with refugees accounting for almost 10% of Ukraine’s pre-war population, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees .

More than 2.3 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed the Polish border, while others have sought refuge in neighboring countries, including Romania, Moldova and Hungary.

Update 3/31/22, 6:50 AM ET: This article has been updated to add comments from Latvian and Estonian officials.

A man pushes his bicycle through mud and debris past a destroyed Russian tank in front of the Central Railway Station which served as a Russian base on March 30, 2022, in Trostyanets, Ukraine
Chris McGrath/Getty Images