Amidst ongoing border dispute, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has issued a warning to the European Union against the imposition of new sanctions.
Vowing retaliation, Lukashenko said he will shut down the transit of natural gas and goods via Belarus to the bloc.
“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.
Migrants have been trying to cross the Belarus-Poland border for months but the crisis reached a new level when hundreds made a concerted effort this week and were pushed back by Polish borders guards.
Western governments accuse Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of luring them to his country and sending them to cross into EU member Poland in retaliation for the sanctions.
Poland has accused Minsk of “state terrorism” for using intimidation to force migrants to breach the border.
Belarus has in turn accused Poland of violating international norms by blocking the migrants and beating them back with violence.
Caught in between, the migrants — who are mainly from the Middle East — are stuck in freezing conditions.
Belarus has received strong support from its main ally, Russia, which has helped buttress Lukashenko’s government with loans and political support.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the migrants flows resulted from the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Western-backed Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. He challenged the EU to offer financial assistance to Belarus to deal with the influx.
At the same time, the Kremlin angrily rejected Poland’s claim that Russia bears responsibility for the crisis.