Source: Chris Tomlinson

President Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Europe in response to possible additional sanctions against Belarus over the ongoing migrant crisis at the EU’s eastern frontier.

President Lukashenko reacted to the possibility of Brussels imposing further additional sanctions on his country on Thursday, something that several high-profile European Union politicians have called for in recent weeks, including European Commissioner Ylva Johansson in the wake of the new migrant crisis.

“We are heating Europe, and they are threatening to close the border,” Lukashenko said, according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta and reported by the Financial Times.

“What if we cut off gas to them? Therefore I recommend that the leaders of Poland, Lithuania, and the other headless people think before speaking. We should not stop at anything to defend our sovereignty and independence,” he added.

Europe is already facing soaring gas prices ahead of the winter months, having the lowest gas inventories in at least a decade, and continues to struggle to fill storage as Asian buyers are purchasing more, constraining supply and superheating prices.

As European countries face a dwindling supply of gas, they may be forced to tap into “cushion” gas held in storage facilities, a type of gas used to maintain pressure in storage facilities and not usually withdrawn, according to consultants Wood Mackenzie.

The firm added that if Europe is struck by a cold winter, the supply of gas could be gone completely by March of next year.

Supplies from Russia could be a remedy to the shortages, but a large amount of Russian gas passes through the Yamal–Europe natural gas pipeline, which travels through Belarus on its way to the EU. The Yamal pipeline carries around a fifth of all gas from Russia to Europe, but like all Russian gas it depends on goodwill from Moscow and the other countries — like Belarus — it passes through to actually deliver.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a close ally of President Lukashenko, had promised to increase gas supplies to Europe but the increase did not come and as a result, prices for gas in Europe again jumped.

Some countries, such as the Netherlands, saw seen gas prices jump as much as 9.7 percent on Monday as investors and analysts eyed the lack of gas and the fact Russian suppliers weren’t booking any extra transport capacity in the coming days. The increases have had a knock-on effect on the prices of other goods and services, including food.

Last month, the European Union statistics agency Eurostat noted that higher oil and gas prices had pushed annual inflation among countries that use the euro currency to their highest level in over a decade.

Lukashenko’s threats to cut off gas have likewise been used by President Putin in the past, such as in 2009 when Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine. But the Kremlin has yet to comment on the threats from Lukashenko.

Some European countries have outright claimed that President Putin and Russia bears some responsibility for the actions of Belarus over the ongoing migrant crisis, such as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki who said that Putin was the “mastermind” behind the crisis.

“This attack which Lukashenko is conducting has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin,” the Polish prime minister said this week.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has also linked Putin to the surge of migrants crossing illegally into Poland, which he described as a form of “hybrid warfare”.