Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko criticized Moscow's decision on Monday to close the border between the two countries, saying that Russia's panic about coronavirus is aggravating economic disruptions.
“For us, what’s biggest (as a responsibility, not as a problem) is the economy. Unfortunately, all these movements in the direction of coronavirus have had a dramatic effect on the economy. It’s gotten to the point that our dear Russia, I’m stressing this, has closed the border with Belarus,” Lukashenko said, arguing that his country is confronting the disease calmly, while “all of Russia is ablaze from coronavirus.” “So who should be closing themselves off to whom here? It’s a rhetorical question,” Lukashenko added, praising his compatriots for a lack of panic buying at pharmacies.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later told reporters that every country has the right to take what measures it deems necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. “We’re counting on the understanding of our partners, especially our closest partner and ally, Belarus,” Peskov said on Monday.
Belarus has implemented no large-scale quarantine measures to fight the spread of coronavirus, and the authorities have not restricted movement into the country or closed kindergartens, schools, or universities, believing such shutdowns to be inappropriate. Mass public events “with international participation” have been limited, however, and athletes returning from places with high numbers of COVID-19 cases are being quarantined.