President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to cut off the transit of gas to Europe if the European Union expands sanctions.
This essentially means blocking the transitional Yamal pipeline.
“We furnish Europe with heat, yet they threaten to close the border. And what if we shut off natural gas there? Therefore, I would recommend that the Polish leadership, the Lithuanians and other empty-headed individuals think before they speak,” Lukashenko said.
“But it is up to them. If they close it (the border) let them do it,” Lukashenko said. At the same time, he ordered the Foreign Ministry “to warn everyone in Europe: if they introduce additional sanctions that are ‘undigestible’ and ‘unacceptable’ for us, then we should respond.”
“How to respond, we agreed with you about it half a year ago,” the President of Belarus said.
Lukashenko reiterated that as a tough response to the new packages of EU sanctions, his country may shut off transit.
“What if we close the transit through Belarus? Through Ukraine it won’t work: the Russian border is closed there, there are no roads through the Baltic states. If we close it for the Poles and, for example, for the Germans, what will happen next? We should stop at nothing to protect our sovereignty and independence,” Lukashenko said commenting on Warsaw’s plans to close the Polish-Belarusian border.
Meanwhile, the United States is preparing “follow up sanctions” designed to hold leaders in Belarus accountable for “ongoing attacks on democracy, human rights and international norms,” a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council said
We are deeply concerned by the Lukashenka regime’s inhumane actions and strongly condemn their callous exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people,” the spokesman said.
The new sanctions will come in “close coordination with the EU and other partners and Allies.” They did not specify when they would come into place.
Thousands of migrants are stranded at the Belarus-Poland border, caught in the intensifying geopolitical dispute. The US, EU and NATO have all accused Alexander Lukashenko’s government of manufacturing the migrant crisis on the EU’s eastern frontier to destabilize the bloc as retribution for sanctions over human rights abuses.
Earlier, European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen told reporters she and President Joe Biden had discussed the possibility of new sanctions on Belarus in an Oval Office meeting. Western leaders are accusing the autocratic regime there of manufacturing a migrant crisis on the European Union’s eastern border.
“We will widen our sanctions against Belarus, very rapidly at the beginning of next week there will be a widening of sanctions against Belarus,” von der Leyen said in front of the White House.