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Belarus threatens to cut off gas supplies to Europe over migrant crisis on western border

Belarus’s leader has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Europe if sanctions are imposed over the escalating migrant crisis at the country’s western border.

Thousands of people, mostly from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, are at the border with Poland, enduring freezing conditions in the hope of crossing into the EU.

European Union officials have accused Belarus of provoking the crisis to undermine its security, an allegation it denies.




In retaliation, the EU is reportedly planning a fresh package of sanctions.

But on Thursday the country’s long-time authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko warned: “If they impose additional sanctions on us… we must respond”.

“We are heating Europe, and they are threatening us,” he said, referring to a Russian gas pipeline that runs through Belarus and into the EU.



“And what if we halt natural gas supplies? Therefore, I would recommend the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other empty-headed people to think before speaking.”

Lukashenko’s comments have raised fears amid worsening natural gas shortages and rising prices in Europe.

The EU’s economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said the 27-member bloc “should not be intimidated”. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya accused the president of “bluffing” over his gas ultimatum.

The EU is expected to introduce sanctions to stop international airlines carrying migrants from landing at the airport in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

Turkey’s national carrier Turkish Airlines has said it will be restricting the sale of tickets on some routes for citizens of Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Iraq has said it is organising repatriation flights for Iraqi nationals from Belarus.

The EU is also reportedly considering sanctions against the Russian state airline Aeroflot for transporting migrants to Belarus, an allegation Aeroflot denies.

Belarus’ Belavia national carrier is already banned from EU skies.




The EU has accused Belarus of mounting a “hybrid attack” on its territory by encouraging thousands of people to cross into Poland.

The migrants are mainly young men but there are also women and children. They are camping in tents just inside Belarus, trapped between Polish guards on one side and Belarusian guards on the other.

At least seven people have died on the Polish side of the border, many from hypothermia in recent months.