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ANKARA/WARSAW: Turkey banned Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi citizens from flights to Minsk on Friday, potentially closing off one of the routes used by migrants that the EU says have been flown in by Belarus to create a deliberate humanitarian crisis on its frontier.

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are sheltering in freezing conditions in the woods on the frontiers between Belarus and the EU states Poland and Lithuania, which are refusing to let them cross. Some have already died and there are fears for the safety of the rest as bitter winter conditions settle in.

The European Union accuses Belarus of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc - distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and encouraging them to try to cross the border illegally. Brussels may impose new sanctions on Belarus and airlines it blames for ferrying the migrants, as soon as Monday.

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