Belarus’s Lukashenko Threatens to Cut Off Gas Over Sanctions
Belarus’s strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday threatened to cut off gas to Europe in retaliation for any new sanctions imposed over the migrant crisis on his country’s border with EU member Poland.
“If they impose additional sanctions on us… we must respond,” Lukashenko told government officials in comments released by the presidency.
“We are warming Europe, and they are threatening us,” he said, pointing out that Russia’s Yamal-Europe pipeline transits through Belarus to Poland.
“And what if we halt natural gas supplies?”
Lukashenko also claimed that migrants on the border had been receiving weapons and explosives from conflict-riven eastern Ukraine for the past two days.
“Why are weapons coming here? They want to stage a provocation,” Lukashenko said, adding that the Belarusian military should be vigilant.
Migrants have been trying to cross the Belarus-Poland border for months but the crisis reached a new level when hundreds made a concerted effort this week and were pushed back by Polish borders guards.
Western governments accuse Lukashenko’s government of luring them to his country and sending them to cross into Poland in retaliation for previous sanctions over Minsk’s crackdown on the opposition.
On Wednesday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would hit Belarus with fresh sanctions next week over the crisis.
Poland has accused Minsk of “state terrorism” for using intimidation to force migrants to breach the border.
Belarus has in turn accused Poland of violating international norms by blocking the migrants and beating them back with violence.
Lukashenko said there were a lot of children and pregnant women among the refugees, adding they should receive necessary help.
“There are a lot of women who are eight or nine months pregnant,” he said. “When they are due of course we’ll take them to the hospital and look after them further.”
(c) The Moscow Times