Belarus president threatens to cut gas supplies over EU sanctions
Belarus's president, Alexander Lukashenko, has threatened to cut gas supplies transiting his country to the EU in retaliation for new sanctions announced by the EU against his regime over the border crisis they say he has engineered.
The sanctions were announced in response to the migration crisis at Belarus's borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which those countries and the EU have blamed on a destabilisation policy by the Minsk regime in retaliation for earlier sanctions. The migration emergency is seen as a 'hybrid war' tactic employed by Minsk against its neighbours and the EU at large.
"They threaten us too much with this fifth package (of sanctions - PAP)... Poland threatens to close its border. Please close it, fewer escapees (oppositionists - PAP) will go there," Lukashenko said.
"We heat Europe, and they still threaten us that they will close the border," the Belarusian president said. "And if we cut off the gas? That's why I would advise the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other madmen to think first before they say anything."
Lukashenko also pointed out that the Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline, which passes through Belarus, has recently carried reduced quantities of gas from Russia.
The Yamal-Europe pipeline is owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom, as is the Belarusian gas transit system, both of which are controlled by the Gazprom subsiduary Gazprom Transgaz Bielarus.
He went on to say that the foreign ministry should warn everybody in Europe that if new sanctions are introduced that are "unacceptable" to Belarus, the country would respond.
A European Commission spokesperson said the bloc would not allow itself to be intimidated, describing the possible gas supply cut as a new hybrid attack tool.
Dana Spinant said natural gas was an essential commodity and should not be used for geopolitical ends, and neither should people.