Eastern Europe Mulls Iron Curtain With Belarus to Cut Off Russia

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

Ukraine's ambassador to Poland, Andrii Deshchytsia, said Ukrainian officials are in talks with the Polish government to "completely close" the country's border with Belarus, according to Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform.

"We are holding 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 the level of the European Union," Deshchytsia said.

Deshchytsia added that negotiations are also underway with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which doesn't have a border with Belarus.

"We also appealed to these countries so that they simultaneously close their borders with Belarus and Russia," he said.

"I think that if such a decision is made, it will not be necessary to wait for the decision of the European Union— we will completely block any supplies to Russia."

A spokesperson for Latvia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Newsweek that Latvia "strongly supports current sectoral sanctions against Belarus as well as personal sanctions against players in Belarus politics, police, military and business community in connection to fraudulent presidential elections, hijacking of passenger airplane, hybrid attack on the EU borders and involvement in Russia's attack on Ukraine.

"Further sanctions and restrictive measures against Belarus are being considered."

The EU put more sanctions on Belarus last year after a Ryanair flight was diverted to the Belarus capital Minsk and a dissident journalist on board arrested.

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

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

On Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the U.S. for an an additional $500 million in aid that was announced earlier that day, but called for more assistance after Russian forces reneged on a pledge to scale back some military operations.

"If we really are fighting for freedom and in defense of democracy together, then we have a right to demand help in this difficult turning point. Tanks, aircraft, artillery systems. Freedom should be armed no worse than tyranny," Zelensky said in his nightly video address, according to the Associated Press.

Russia's deputy defense minister, Alexander Fomin, told reporters on Tuesday that Russian forces would fall back from Kyiv and Chernihiv, a city in northern Ukraine, to "increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations."

But Zelensky was skeptical, saying the signals "do not drown out the ruptures of Russian shells."

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 left many dead on both sides.

The number of Ukrainians who have fled the country since February 24 has topped 4 million, with the refugees representing almost 10 percent of the Ukrainian population from before the war, according to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

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

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

A man in front of Russian tank
A man pushes his bike through mud and debris past a destroyed Russian tank in front of the central train station that was used as a Russian base on March 30, 2022, in Trostyanets, Ukraine Chris McGrath/Getty Images