Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko threatened to halt the country’s gas pipelines from supplying Europe with energy on Thursday.
Belarus is now being sanctioned by the European Union for contributing to the migrant crisis on the continent. There are currently countless migrants from across Syria, Iraq and Yemen attempting to enter Poland through Belarus’s border with the country.
Lukashenko has responded to the sanctions by threatening to retaliate through Belarus’s gas pipelines:
“We are heating Europe, and they are threatening us,” the authoritarian leader said. “And what if we halt natural gas supplies? Therefore, I would recommend the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other empty-headed people to think before speaking.”
Members of the EU have claimed to be unfazed by the dictators comments, with the bloc’s economy commissioner Paolo Gentiloni saying that they “should not be intimidated” by Lukashenko.
The EU introduced the sanctions after Poland accused Belarus on Monday of planning a “major provocation” by encouraging a large group of migrants to cross the Polish border, in an incident reminiscent of Turkey’s attempt to destabilize Greece and the EU in March 2020.
“Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio.
His statement came after the Polish Defense Ministry published a video of the migrant group nearing the border town of Kuznica.
Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for the ministry coordinating Poland’s intelligence agencies, said the group is preparing to enter Poland “en masse.”
He also claimed the migrants were “under a strict control of Belarusian armed units who decide which way the group can or can’t go.”
The Belarusian opposition news outlet NEXTA said most of the migrants were Iraqi Kurds, and that the group included many women and children.
Belarus follows Turkey’s example against Greece
Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko is seemingly following on the steps of Turkey’s President Tayyip Recep Erdogan who in March 2020 encouraged thousands of migrants to march towards the Greek border at Evros.
For days, Greek police and military forces tried to prevent the migrants from crossing illegally into Greece. Frequent clashes erupted at the in Evros as migrants set fires, threw Molotov cocktails over to the Greek side and tried to pull the border fence down.
Greek and combined European forces which operated in the area, guarding Europe’s external border, responded with tear gas and attempts to keep the fence intact after the aggressive actions of the migrants.
The Greek Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday saying that it is “following closely the developments at the borders of Poland with Belarus, which are also EU borders.” It adds: “Greece stands with its EU partner and NATO ally Poland and condemns all attempts to instrumentalize migration.”
Greece eventually succeeded in protecting its border. Greek officials said at the time that Turkey had tried to weaponize massive migrant flows. Now, it seems that Belarus is now using the exact same tactic against Poland.