Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to retaliate against any new European Union sanctions, including by shutting down the transit of natural gas and goods via Belarus, because of the spiralling migrant crisis on its border.
“We are heating Europe, they are still threatening us that they will close the border. And if we shut off natural gas there? Therefore, I would recommend that the Polish leadership, Lithuanians and other headless people think before speaking,” Lukashenko said.
It comes as thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa have been camping at the Belarusian border with Poland seeking entry into the EU. Migrants have clashed with armed guards at the barb-wired border as the EU accuses Belarus of encouraging illegal immigration n revenge for previous sanctions on Minsk over human rights abuses.
According to Polish authorities, up to 4,000 migrants have gathered at the border with reports yesterday that two migrant groups broke through border fences further escalating the crisis as Russia also sent bombers to deploy the airspace.
The rising hostility spurred Poland to warn that the migrant crisis could end in a military confrontation, while the situation has caused alarm across the EU.
The gas threat from the Belarus leader was dismissed by one leading member of the country’s exiled opposition.
“Alexander Lukashenko will not stop the pipeline, it’s another bluff. Let’s not forget Lukashenko wants Europe to speak to him.” Franak Viačorka told The Independent.
“If he did this it would hurt him, it would hurt Russia, usually when he does something, like down a Ryanair flight, he doesn’t say so in advance.”
Read More:Belarus threatens to disrupt European gas supplies over spiralling migrant crisis