Belarusian president threatens to cut gas supplies over EU sanctions

Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka has threatened to cut gas supplies being transited through his country to the EU in retaliation for new sanctions announced by the Union against his regime over the ongoing border crisis. “We are not going to be intimidated by any potential action by the Belarus regime using gas as a [blackmail] tool,” the European Commission’s spokeswoman responded.

The sanctions were announced in response to the migration crisis at Belarus' borders with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which those countries consider as retaliation for earlier sanctions imposed on Minsk. The situation at the Union’s borders with Belarus is seen as a 'hybrid war' tactic employed by the country’s regime against its neighbours and the EU at large.

“They threaten us too much with this fifth package [of canctions]... Poland threatens to close its border. Please close it, fewer escapees [Belarusian oppositionists] will go there,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka said.

“We heat Europe, and they still threaten us that they will close the border,” the Belarusian president said. “And what if we cut off the gas [supplies]? That is why I would advise the leaders of Poland, Lithuanian and other madmen to think first before they say anything,” he added.

He also pointed out that the Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline (the Belarusian gas transit system under Russian control), which passes through Belarus, has recently carried reduced quantities of gas from Russia.

The Belarusian president also warned that if new “unacceptable” sanctions are introduced, “the country would respond.”

Dana Spinant, the European Commission’s spokesperson, when asked about Belarusian threats to stop gas transit from Russia to the EU in response to any new EU sanctions, stressed that “we are not going to be intimidated by any potential action by the Belarus regime using gas as a [blackmail] tool.”

“Natural gas is an essential commodity and should not be used for geopolitical ends, and neither should people,” she emphasised.