Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to close a pipeline that carries Russian gas to the European Union if Poland closes the border as thousands of immigrants try to cross into EU territory. “We are heating up Europe and they threaten us to close the border,” Lukashenko said, referring to the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline in Belarus, according to the state news agency Belta. cited by Bloomberg. “What happens if we cut off the natural gas supplies there? I would advise the leaders of Poland, Lithuania and other empty-headed people to think before they speak. ”
Lukashenko’s threat comes as Europe faces the worst energy crisis in decades amid limited Russian gas deliveries and competition with Asia for liquefied gas supplies. Russia, the main fuel supplier on the continent, began to increase gas deliveries earlier this week, but so far flows remain below average this time of year.
About 20% of Russian gas flows to the EU have been sent from the territory of Belarus so far this year, Bloomberg reports, mainly through the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, which passes through Belarus and Poland to Germany.
The EU is considering more sanctions against the Lukashenko government for the refugee crisis. The Belarusian president, for his part, has said that he has asked Russia to deploy strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons to patrol the border of his country and is evaluating on closing the passage of goods to Europe, as well as other possible measures to take. retaliation for any additional penalties. Neither the Kremlin nor Gazprom have so far publicly responded to Lukashenko’s comments.
Poland claims that 4,000 migrants may be in the forests along the border, and even more on their way to the border area from the capital of Belarus. Neighboring Lithuania, facing a similar problem, called on the United Nations to open a humanitarian corridor in Belarus.
The United States and the European Union are preparing measures to penalize Lukashenko, whom they accuse of “orchestrating a hybrid attack on the EU.”
The EU refused to acknowledge Lukashenko’s victory in last year’s elections, and condemned his crackdown on the opposition. The EU also accuses it of provoking the current refugee crisis, with thousands of migrants arriving in Belarus from the Middle East and brought to the borders of Lithuania and Poland, from where many try to reach Western Europe.
Walls against migrants
The European Union has entered fully into the debate on the financing of border walls against migrants and refugees. While the issue was on the table at the last leaders’ summit in Brussels, three weeks ago, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, expressed a frontal opposition to dedicating community money to build fences and gates, something that some Heads of State and Government did ask in the European Council. As requested by the majority party in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party.
The Polish prime minister, for his part, has defended “additional sanctions, for example, in relation to airlines, also with Belarusian ones.” And he has called for a meeting by videoconference of the EU heads of government to address the crisis: “It is a very serious problem. The pressure on the Lukashenko regime has to increase. Without specific sanctions we will not be able to achieve the desired results.”
According to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, “it is important to explain to the airlines what are the effects of their decisions in launching a hybrid attack against the EU. And if we cannot convince with arguments, we must be prepared to decide on concrete sanctions. and operational, because we must be firm. What is happening is serious and we must react firmly. We need to be united. ”
In addition, the President of the European Council has developed his request that the EU finance the walls against migrants: “The European financing of physical infrastructure to protect the borders is supported by the legal service of the Council, it is legally possible under the current legal framework” . Michel, however, has acknowledged: “This is a decision that the European Commission must take, but in any case, the legal opinion of the Council is very clear and we will see what the outcome of the debate will be.”
The European Commission insisted this Thursday: “It is not a legal or legal problem, but we have a position that has long been agreed with the European Parliament. But the European Council can discuss it again with the Heads of State and Government. But not now. we have nothing to say. ”
The White House confirmed to Efe on Wednesday that it is preparing sanctions against Belarus for its “ruthless exploitation and coercion” of immigrants stranded on that country’s border with Poland, and that it will impose them unless Minsk resolves the situation.
The United States is “deeply concerned” by the “inhumane actions of the regime” by Belarusian President Aleksándr Lukashenko, which have generated a crisis with Poland and the European Union (EU), a spokesman for the National Security Council of the House told Efe. Blanca, who requested anonymity.
“We are preparing new sanctions in close coordination with the EU and other partners and allies; sanctions that will hold the Lukashenko regime accountable for its persistent attacks on democracy, human rights and international norms, if it does not change course immediately.” , the spokesperson stressed.
Speaking to the press after the meeting with Biden, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assured that the United States was preparing sanctions against Belarus for this reason, and said that Washington will have “in effect” its measures against that country. “early December”.
Von der Leyen also announced that the EU will impose sanctions against Belarus-related individuals and entities “next week” in response to the migration crisis.
Specifically, he assured that they had agreed to examine “the possibility of sanctioning those airlines that facilitate the trafficking of people to Minsk, and then to the Belarus border with the EU,” said the EC president.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that “the idea of Belarus using migration as a weapon is deeply unacceptable.”