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    Lukashenko repeats threat to halt Russian gas transit


Belarus is a key transit route for Russian oil and gas heading to Europe.

by: Joseph Murphy

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Natural Gas & LNG News, Europe, Top Stories, Corporate, Import/Export, News By Country, Belarus, Russia

Lukashenko repeats threat to halt Russian gas transit

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has repeated his threat to shut off Russian energy transit via the east European country.

Belarus is a key transit route for Siberian gas flowing via the Yamal-Europe pipeline to Poland and Germany, as well as for crude oil being delivered to central and east Europe through the Druzhba system. Lukashenko said he was prepared to disrupt energy transit if Poland closed its border. 

The EU has imposed new sanctions on Belarus in response to a migrant crisis at the country's border with Poland. Warsaw and Brussels accuse the Lukashenko regime of encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to try and cross into neighbouring Poland, creating a border crisis. Minsk denies this.

"As Poland together with others takes more action against Belarus, do they think I am going to stick to some contracts. Come on, they should know better," Lukashenko said in an interview with Russian media, Belarus' state-owned press agency Belta reported on December 1. 

"Poland has this idea to close the border with Belarus. Fine, let them do it," he said. "If they close it, then they need to think how they are going to buy energy from Russia."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded saying Belarus was under "unprecedented, unjustified and aggressive" pressure from the West, and that president Vladimir Putin "expressed understanding" of Lukashenko's comments, according to Reuters.

"But on the other hand, the president is counting on this not resulting in any breaches of our obligations towards European gas buyers, especially at such a tough time for the Europeans," he said.

Lukashenko suggested he would halt Russian gas transit via Belarus on November 11, but analysts view the threat as largely hollow, given the fact that the Yamal-Europe pipeline is fully owned and operated by Russia's Gazprom. The Belarusian leadership is also heavily dependent on Russia politically, especially since its relations with the EU collapsed last year after Lukashenko declared victory in presidential elections that were widely rejected as neither free nor fair.

However, Belarus' oil pipeline operator did temporarily restrict oil flows to Poland on November 18, citing the need for unscheduled maintenance.