EU: Lukashenko exploits 'hybrid attacks' to break Brussels' unity
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President Lukashenko said he was ready to block Russian energy shipments through its territory if Poland closes its border with Belarus. The row is part of the wider EU migrant crisis and could massively disrupt gas supplies in Europe. This could result in the bloc’s households facing soaring bills.
The EU has accused Mr Lukashenko’s government of using Middle Eastern people as a political weapon by luring them into Belarus to then send them to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Belarus denies responsibility for the thousands of migrants and refugees that have attempted to make the journey since August.
Poland introduced a state of emergency along the Poland-Belarus border in September. This expired overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.
As a replacement, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda signed into law new regulations to limit access to areas around the country’s 3,511 kilometres of borders.
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The aim is to help guards perform their jobs better and, according to the Interior Ministry, facilitate the construction of the 5.5-meter-tall barrier that Warsaw, determined to put an end to the influx of immigrants and refugees, agreed to build in November.
Work is set to start this month.
Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said it will be a “solid, high barrier, with a surveillance system and motion detectors”.
Belarus-Poland: Migrants detained attempting border crossing
According to the state-owned Belta news agency, Mr Lukashenko told Russian media: “As Poland together with others takes more action against Belarus, do they think I am going to stick to some contracts?
“Come on, they should know better.
“Poland has this idea to close the border with Belarus. Fine, let them do it.
“If they close it, then they need to think how they are going to buy energy from Russia.”
Mr Lukashenko made similar claims last month, to which Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by warning his ally that blocking the energy supply “would be a violation of our transit contract”.
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This time, though, Mr Putin “expressed his understanding” of Lukashenko’s approach.
The Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline, owned by Russia’s state gas company Gazprom, runs across Belarus to supply Poland and Germany.
It provides energy for Poland, on the one hand, and for the rest of Europe, through Germany’s huge gas storage facilities, on the other.
Russia is Europe’s biggest gas supplier and about one-fifth of these supplies travel through Belarus.
Mr Lukashenko’s threats are thus a powerful source of retaliation against the EU.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Belarus was under “unprecedented, unjustified and aggressive” pressure from some Western nations.
He added: “But on the other hand, the president is counting on this not resulting in any breaches of our obligations towards European gas buyers, especially at such a tough time for the Europeans.”
So far, there have been no signs of the gas flows being affected by Mr Lukashenko’s threats.
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