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Poland says entry of trucks from Belarus slowed by sanctions

WARSAW (Reuters) – The passage of trucks over the border into Poland from Belarus has been slowed by new sanctions, a Polish customs spokesperson said on Wednesday, after Minsk said Warsaw had stopped allowing lorries to cross.

Long strained Polish-Belarusian relations have sunk to new lows since the outbreak of a migrant crisis on the border in 2021 with Western officials accusing Minsk of sending migrants from outside of Europe to Poland in a form of “hybrid warfare”.

Four of six border crossings are now closed and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski has said that Warsaw does not rule out a complete closure.

European Union countries agreed on a sanctions package against Belarus in June to crack down on goods being sent into EU territory by Russia via Belarus to evade sanctions imposed over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Belarusian opposition activists have campaigned to get Poland to shut the key Kukuryki-Kozlovichi crossing to raise pressure on Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to free political prisoners.

The Belarusian customs authority said Poland had stopped letting cargo vehicles enter from Belarus via the Kukuryki-Kozlovichi crossing – the only one still open for trucks – at 3 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

It said there were now 600 trucks waiting in line to cross from Kozlovichi in Belarus to Kukuryki in Poland, whereas none were waiting on Tuesday. Vehicles were still crossing in the other direction, into Belarus, but slower than usual, it said.

A Polish national revenue administration spokesperson, Justyna Pasieczynska, said the checkpoint was not closed but movement had slowed because of checks related to new sanctions.

“Traffic is moving normally, maybe a little slower, because sanctions have been introduced and we, as the customs and excise service, have to comply with the regulations… (but) nothing has been suspended or blocked,” Pasieczynska said.

The Belarus border committee said only 110 freight vehicles had been able to cross into Poland in the previous 24 hours, compared to a normal figure of 1,200.

It said a total of 1,960 freight vehicles were currently waiting to cross from Belarus into EU territory – 600 into Poland, 530 at the single crossing into Latvia and 830 at two checkpoints on the Lithuanian border.

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