Dispute over refugees: Lukashenko threatens EU to stop gas

Dispute over refugees

Lukashenko threatens EU to stop gas

In view of the refugee crisis on the border with Poland, the European Union is bringing new sanctions against Belarus into play. The ruler there, Lukashenko, ruled with threats – and cited the stop of gas supplies from Russia as a possibility. Meanwhile, mixed signals are coming from Moscow.

In the refugee dispute with the European Union, the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko threatened countermeasures in the event of new EU sanctions. “If they impose new sanctions on us, we have to react,” said Lukashenko, according to the state news agency Belta. In particular, he mentioned the possibility of stopping gas deliveries coming from Russia to the EU via a pipeline through Belarus.

EU diplomats said on Wednesday that the EU was preparing a further tightening of sanctions in the refugee conflict with Belarus. Accordingly, the ambassadors of the 27 EU countries agreed to extended sanction criteria. They include the “instrumentalization of migrants” and “smuggling”. Accordingly, the EU could decide on a fifth package of punitive measures in the coming weeks. They are supposed to be directed against around 30 airlines, travel agencies or other responsible persons who support Belarus in smuggling refugees.

The EU accuses Lukashenko of deliberately bringing migrants to the borders of the EU states Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in order to retaliate for previous EU sanctions. In the Belarusian-Polish border area, thousands of people, especially from the Middle East, are currently stuck in icy temperatures.

Meanwhile, mixed signals are coming from Russia. As announced by the Ministry of Defense in Minsk, two Russian TU-160 fighter planes, which can also be armed with nuclear weapons, tried bombing attacks in an exercise in Belarus. Russia had already dispatched strategic bombers on Wednesday to fly over Belarus and thus demonstrate support for the ally.

Moscow offers help

At the same time, Russia declared that it wanted to help solve the problem in view of the tense situation surrounding migrants on the EU’s external border with Belarus. “Like other countries, Russia is trying to help resolve the situation,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to the Interfax agency. Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help. Putin has a direct line to the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Russia itself is now threatened with sanctions because of the situation in Belarus.

The EU accuses Lukashenko of organizing illegal border crossings by migrants in retaliation for sanctions against his country. According to the EU, Lukashenko lets refugees from Syria and Iraq fly to Minsk, in order to then bring them to the Polish and thus to the EU external border. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said that the mastermind behind the project is based in Moscow. The Russian government rejected this again.

The Kremlin also stated that there were heavily armed actors on both sides on the Polish-Belarusian border. That is a cause for concern. The Russian airline Aeroflot also denied allegations that it was involved in bringing many refugees to Belarus. Corresponding reports are wrong. The Bloomberg agency had previously reported that the EU was considering sanctions against Aeroflot in the matter.

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