Lukashenko Reiterates Warning on Gas Transit Blockade to Europe

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko has again warned that Minsk could suspend the transit of natural gas across its territory to Europe in response to new Western sanctions, boosting spot gas prices.


The United States and its allies, including the European Union, earlier this month imposed sanctions against dozens of individuals and entities in Belarus in a coordinated move to escalate punitive action against Lukashenko and his government.

Lukashenko is accused of having rigged the presidential election last year to stay in power, ordering a massive crackdown on the opposition, and recently, of sending migrants to Belarus' border with the EU in an effort to manufacture a crisis for the bloc. He denies that his government is behind the crisis.

"If the sanctions, which they have imposed or will impose in future, will lead us to an emergency situation and we will have no other way out but to respond by other measures to their sanctions, we will use this harsh measure," Belta news agency quoted Lukashenko as saying about the possibility of suspending the gas transit.

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

The Russian Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline, which has an annual capacity of 30 billion cubic meters, traverses Belarus and Poland to transport gas to Germany. Gas flows via the pipeline had been broadly stable in recent days.

Belarusian oil company Belorusneft cancelled its 2022 export plans to Germany via the Druzhba pipeline following new European Union sanctions on the company, three traders familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Lukashenko had already threatened last month to retaliate against any new European Union sanctions, including by shutting down the transit of Russian natural gas and goods via Belarus.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday he hoped nothing would stop Russia from meeting its contractual obligations on gas supplies after Lukashenko repeated his threat.

The Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom, which exports Russian gas via pipelines, has not responded to a request for comment.

The Dutch day-ahead gas contract jumped on Monday by more than 12 euros to 115.73 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), while the benchmark Dutch front-month contract hit its highest since early October, rising by more than 10 euros to 115.50 euros/MWh. 

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