“We supply Europe with heating and European countries are threatening us to close their borders. What if we interrupt the transit of gas to Europe? ». This is the threat that the Belarusian dictatorship Aleksandr Lukashenko, in power in spite of everything for 27 years, is making against the Europe that sanctions him: to close the taps of the gas pipelines that carry the 20% of Russian gas destined for the EU (Yamal Europe) in the event of new European sanctions against Minsk. “It’s up to them to decide. If they close the borders, let them do it, ”he said in a government meeting according to reports from the government agency Belta. He told his foreign minister to “warn all Europeans that if they introduce new ‘indigestible’ and unacceptable sanctions for us, we will respond”. “How will we respond? We agreed on it about a year ago ». Lukashenko recommends «to the Polish, Lithuanian and other senseless personalities to think before speaking. We will stop at nothing to protect our sovereignty and independence ».
The EU has indeed announced new sanctions in Minsk linked to its role in the migration crisis on the eastern European border. A package of measures announced by Ursula von der Leyen that includes important restrictions also for the Foreign Minister of Minsk, Vladimir Maki and for Belavia, the Belarusian national airline. It is not yet clear whether Turkish Airline will also be sanctioned, which, in order to escape the European blacklist, will ban the sale of tickets to Minsk to Iraqis, Syrians, Afghans and Yemenis, except for those who hold diplomatic passports. In fact, the Turkish company is also accused, together with the Russian Aeroflot, of collaborating in the “smuggling of migrants”. “Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines play a leading role in the transfer of migrants,” said the head of the German federal police, Heiko Teggatz. Helping to bring the people now massed at the border to their destination.
The threat of gas, however, appears to be a blunt weapon. The pipeline originates in Russia and crosses Belarus to then arrive in Poland and Germany. The Belarusian section was inaugurated in 2006 and belongs to Gazprom, the Russian energy company with partial state control. The infrastructure has a kind of extraterritorial legal status. For this reason, according to the leader of the Belarusian opposition, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, an operational interruption of the pipeline “would have worse consequences for Lukashenko than for the European Union”. Of course, it rebuilds The sun 24 hours, Lukashenko’s threat immediately reversed the decline in natural gas prices. Gazprom had recently started refueling the storage sites in Germany and Austria, a signal expected by the markets. Meanwhile, Angela Merkel’s attempt at mediation with Vladimir Putin continues: the two are on the second consecutive day of telephone confrontation. But the next German Chancellor Olaf Sholtz may have a different approach, with a promise to keep a hard line with Lukashenko.
In between, used by the parties involved in their desperation, thousands of people fleeing Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria. The border areas of Belarus, Lithuania and Poland continue to be declared “emergency areas” by all the countries involved. There are no media, there are no NGOs, it is not possible to understand the humanitarian situation of these people camped in sub-zero temperatures, also forcibly pushed by the Belarusians to cross the border and sent back by the Polish police when they do. According to the Polish portal Oko.press, a 14-year-old Kurdish boy and a 37-year-old Iraqi woman have been frozen to death in the last two days. According to other sources, more victims are reported. Lukashenko allowed some members of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, IOM and the Belarusian Red Cross to go to the area for an inspection. The United Nations are also concerned, with the issue brought to the attention of the Security Council, by the humanitarian crisis of the exiles but also by the military aspect of the whole affair, increasingly heavy, with troops now amassed on all borders between Europe and Belarus.
On the cover ANSA / MAXIM GUCHEK | Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Parliament in Minsk, Belarus, May 26, 2021.