EU prepares to block import of Russian gas through Belarus
The European Union is preparing to tighten the currency stranglehold around Alexander Lukashenko’s neck, whose regime is already losing a key source of export earnings after NAFTAN refinery was put on the U.S. “blacklist”.
The European sanctions against Belarus in response to the forced landing of the Ryanair flight in Minsk may include measures against the transit of Russian gas through Belarus, said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell.
The sanctions may be imposed on the Yamal-Europe pipeline, through which Gazprom annually transports about 33 billion cubic meters of gas, which is about one-seventh of exports to the EU.
The loss of gas transit revenues would be painful for Minsk, Deutsche Welle quoted Borrell as saying.
“We can imagine that the gas that enters Europe through Belarus will continue to flow to Europe, but through another pipeline,” he said on the sidelines of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Lisbon.
In addition, Belaruskali, one of the world’s largest potash producers providing a quarter of Europe’s needs, can be included in the EU blacklists.
The company, which along with refineries, is a key source of foreign currency for the Belarusian economy, is the most likely candidate for sectoral economic sanctions, a source in Brussels told Bloomberg.
Another potential candidate is the national airline BelAvia, for which EU airspace and airports have already been closed.
In April, the United States imposed sanctions against nine state-owned Belarusian companies in connection with the falsification of the presidential elections held in August. Russian companies stopped supplying Naftan, the country’s largest refinery, raw materials, for fear of secondary sanctions.
Losing key sources of currency and facing a full-fledged currency crisis, Lukashenko rushes to Sochi for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The main topic of the Meeting on May 28 will be economic issues, Lukashenko said on Wednesday. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the possibility of allocating economic aid to Belarus would “depend on the question being set.”
US President Joe Biden hailed the EU’s efforts, calling the Ryanair incident a “direct affront to international norms.” The President said in a statement that he had instructed his team to “develop appropriate options” to bring those involved in the incident to justice.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, held a telephone conversation with the leader of the exiled Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. French President Emmanuel Macron has backed a proposal to invite her and other opposition leaders to the G7 summit next month.