Russia traded barbs with Western members of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday over a crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland, with Russia's deputy U.N. envoy suggesting his European colleagues have "masochist inclinations."
"We condemn the orchestrated instrumentalisation of human beings whose lives and wellbeing have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus, with the objective of destabilising neighbouring countries and the European Union's external border and diverting attention away from its own increasing human rights violations," they said in a statement.
They described the Belarusian approach as "unacceptable," and accused President Alexander Lukashenko of becoming a threat to regional stability and called for a "strong international reaction" to hold Belarus accountable, pledging "to discuss further measures that we can take."
The EU says Belarus is encouraging thousands fleeing war-torn parts of the world to try to cross into Poland and other neighbouring countries to retaliate for EU sanctions.
Belarus has warned the crisis could escalate into a military confrontation, while Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia said Belarus posed a serious threat to European security.
Russia's deputy U.N. Ambassador, Dmitry Polyanskiy, told reporters ahead of the council meeting that he believed his Western council colleagues "have some kind of masochist inclinations because to raise this topic, which is a total shame for the EU, in front of us would be very brave."
When asked if Russia or Belarus were helping move the migrants to the Polish border, Polyanskiy said: "No, absolutely not." He added that not all problems needed to be tackled by the Security Council. Russia is a council veto-power so can shield Belarus from any possible attempts to impose U.N. sanctions.
Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United States and Britain said: "We will remain united and determined to protect the EU against these hybrid operations by Belarusian authorities."