Belarus Ruler Threatens to Turn Off Heat in Europe

Natural gas pipeline runs through country from Russia
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2021 6:40 PM CST
Lukashenko Threatens Europe's Heat Over Sanctions
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks during a cabinet meeting in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Lukashenko on Thursday called the Russian bomber flights a necessary response to the tensions on the Belarus-Poland border.   (Nikolay Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo via AP)

Alexander Lukashenko stepped up tensions with Western nations on Thursday by saying he'd reach for the gas shutoff in the event more sanctions are imposed on Belarus. "We are heating Europe," Lukashenko said, the Washington Post reports. "They still threaten us that they will close the border. And if we shut off natural gas there?" The president directed the nation's prime minister to warn all of Europe, state media reported, that new sanctions would be "unacceptable for us. We must answer." The EU and US are considering steps starting next week.

It's part of the worsening migrant crisis at the Belarus-Poland border, where thousands of people are trying to enter Poland or Lithuania. According to reports Thursday in Polish media, a 14-year-old boy froze to death on the Belarus side, per the New York Times. Russia has backed Belarus throughout the crisis, though President Vladimir Putin's government has said it's staying out of the latest escalation. "It's clearly a very serious threat, and the next step is to watch what Russia says or does about this," one analyst said. The pipeline invoked by Lukashenko carries natural gas from Russia, through Belarus, to Western Europe.

The dispute reached the UN Security Council on Thursday, where a group of nations accused Lukashenko of trying to destabilize the region to deflect attention from Belarus' human rights violations. A statement decried "the orchestrated instrumentalization of human beings whose lives and well-being have been put in danger for political purposes by Belarus." It was issued by the US, Britain, Estonia, France, Norway, and Albania. The statement was not accompanied by any action, which would be subject to veto by Russia. (More Belarus stories.)

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