German minister warns Russia could use ‘people as weapons’

Germany's foreign minister warned Saturday that Russia could seek to spark division in the West through refugees, as Moscow seeks to expand its "hybrid war".

German minister warns Russia could use 'people as weapons'
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock gesticulates as she delivers a speech. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER/AFP

Germany’s foreign minister warned Saturday that Russia could seek to spark division in the West through refugees, as Moscow seeks to expand its “hybrid war”.

“This war is not only waged with weapons, it is also waged with energy and  for that, we have found an answer. But it will also be waged with fear and division, and that is precisely what we have to prevent,” said Annalena Baerbock at a congress of her Greens’ party.

“In this situation it is clear what will be next — refugees and not refugees from Ukraine… but because this war is hybrid, other countries are also participating,” Baerbock said, pointing to Serbia which she accused of letting in planeloads of migrants without visas.

Stressing that there cannot be a situation “where people are being used as weapons”, the minister said Germany was in talks with the Czech Republic and Slovakia on the issue.

Germany has in recent weeks warned about Belgrade’s visa-free travel regime for several countries whose citizens use Serbia as a springboard to enter the EU.

Serbia, a candidate for eventual EU membership, lies on the so-called Balkan route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands still pass through the region annually.

Germany took in over a million migrants during the 2015 crisis, but the move left Europe’s biggest economy deeply divided. Misgivings among some voters eventually resulted in the arrival of the far-right AfD party in parliament.

The European Commission’s 2022 report on migration and asylum released this month found an “increasing number of people” were arriving by air to Serbia due to its “visa-free regimes”.

It said it was “crucial” that Western Balkan partners “align their visa policies” with the EU to decrease pressure on the route.

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Polish farmers keep German border crossing blocked

Polish farmers blocked a major highway into Germany on Monday, carrying their protest against EU regulations and "uncontrolled" Ukrainian grain imports into its second day.

Polish farmers keep German border crossing blocked

The farmers began their blockade on Sunday, parking their tractors on the A2 motorway near Słubice in western Poland, across the border from the German town of Frankfurt an der Oder.

“We farmers from Poland are here because we are no longer accepting the EU Green Deal regulation,” Christopher Janicki told AFP at the protest.

READ ALSO: Polish farmers block key road into Germany

“We also do not accept the uncontrolled import of grain from outside of the EU,” Janicki said.

Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks over what they say are excessively restrictive environmental rules, competition from cheap imports from outside the European Union and low incomes.

Demonstrations in Poland have responded in particular to inflows of cheap grain into Poland from Ukraine, where exports via the Black Sea have been disrupted by the war with Russia.

“Farmers in Poland have their warehouses full and cannot get rid of their goods” because of lower-priced imports, Janicki said.

“If we can’t sell grain, we can’t make any money, we can’t continue production.”

Protestors also said they were targeting the EU’s so-called Green Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, an effort which they say has put an unfair burden on farmers.

“We stand in solidarity not only with protesters from Poland, but also with protesters from Germany, France, Spain and every other country where the protests take place,” organiser Dariusz Wrobel told AFP.

The protest at the German border, which began at 1 pm on Sunday, was set to end after 24 hours at the same time on Monday.

The farmers initially planned a 25-day blockade but reduced it following talks with local representatives and businesses.