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Belarus threatens to reduce gas exports to EU as migration crisis worsens

Alexander Lukashenko threatened to cut off gas and gas supplies from Belarus to Europe if the EU imposed further sanctions on its government because of the refugee crisis on the Belarus-Poland border.

The President of Belarus responded to a statement by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, on Wednesday that the bloc would do so. to extend its penalties during Lukashenko’s administration, he blamed Minsk for “political interference” in expelling migrants from EU borders for disruption.

On Thursday Lukashenko warned Minsk that he would answer any “illegal” sanctions.

“We are burning Europe, and they are threatening to close the border,” he said, according to a Belarusian news agency Belta. What if we cut off gas? That is why I suggest that the leaders of Poland, Lithuania and other people without thinking think before speaking. We must not stand for anything in order to protect our sovereignty and our rights. ”

Gas prices in Europe has risen sharply this year worrying about the shortage of items needed before winter. Global availability has increased as the economy recovers from the Covid-19 epidemic, as Europe competes with Asia to export natural gas from suppliers such as the US, Qatar and Australia, while Western European pipeline exports from Russia have declined sharply.

Prices fell this week amid signs of a Russian government-sponsored gas giant Gazprom began to fill its European museum. Gas markets were not immediately affected by Lukashenko’s threat, a slight rise. On Thursday morning the European benchmark rose 0.5 percent to € 71.85 per megawatt hour.

About 40 percent of EU emissions come from Russia, and about one-fifth pass through Belarus by 2020, according to experts. But EU lawmakers criticized Moscow for blocking supplies to the bloc in order to speed up the approval of a new Nord Stream 2 pipeline across the Baltic Sea.

Thierry Bros, a former oil and gas consultant at the French Ministry of Finance and a professor at Sciences Po in Paris, said Russia and Gazprom would eventually determine whether Lukashenko committed the threat.

“He oversees the transit of Belarus and if Lukashenko tries to cut ties, he has control over his administration and the gas process,” he said. “The key question is whether Vladimir Putin supports Belarus in this crisis.”

James Waddell at Energy Aspects, a consultant, said Lukashenko’s threats did not appear to be reliable: “[It would be] it is extremely difficult for the Kremlin to remain politically neutral in any of the Belarusian crisis and this could cause the EU to respond. ”

Lukashenko’s Salvo comes amid international concern over what is happening on the Belarus-Poland border, where thousands of refugees have gathered in recent days. Many arrived in Belarus by plane from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and European officials say the operation is being carried out by Minsk in an attempt to disrupt the EU.

Polish officials said Thursday that several hundred migrants tried to force them to cross the Bialowieza border yesterday.

Immigrant traffickers from Europol, an international law firm, are on their way to Poland in Warsaw after seeking their assistance, the European Commission said.

Asked about reports that Poland was pushing refugees across borders, a committee spokesman said governments should act in accordance with “human rights” and that Brussels “was looking at humanitarian and humanitarian measures. [migrants’] their safe return to their homeland ”.

Von der Leyen discussed this with US President Joe Biden. Russia, meanwhile, has taken a growing number of stances, criticizing the EU for increasing the “compassionate crisis” for not allowing migrants to enter.

On Thursday, for the second day in a row, Russia sent nuclear bombs to a Belarus airstrip. Lukashenko said the move was linked to Moscow. “We need to keep an eye on the border,” he added.

Security officials in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania said in a joint statement that the border could pose a “serious threat to European security”, warning of the threat of “disruptions and major incidents that could spread in the armed forces”.

Richard Milne’s additional reports from Oslo are Andy Bounds in Brussels

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