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Belarus Threatens To Cut Off Transit Gas Flows To Europe

Belarus threatened on Thursday to halt natural gas supply at a key pipeline from Russia to Germany passing through Belarus, if the European Union imposes additional sanctions to the country in response to the migrant crisis at the Belarus-Poland border.

In recent days, a growing number of migrants have been flocking to the Belarus border with Poland. The EU has accused Belarus of stoking the tensions and the border crisis and of attempting "a hybrid attack" on the EU border.

The EU bloc is already said to be considering another round of sanctions against Belarus.

Alexander Lukashenko, the leader of Belarus, warned on Thursday that his country could shut gas flows via the Yamal-Europe pipeline from Russia to Germany, which crosses Belarus and Poland.

"We provide heat to Europe, and they are threatening us with the border closure. What if we block natural gas transit?" Lukashenko said on Thursday, as quoted by Belarusian state news agency Belta.

"Therefore, I would recommend the leadership of Poland, Lithuanians and other brainless folk to think hard before opening mouth. But it is up to them. They are welcome to close the border. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should warn everyone in Europe that if they impose additional sanctions, 'indigestible' and 'unacceptable' for us, we will hit back," Lukashenko was quoted as saying.

The specter of another hurdle to Russian supplies to Europe is being raised days after Russia's gas giant Gazprom largely relieved the European gas market by saying that it had approved and started implementing a plan to send natural gas into five storage sites in Europe.

The volumes and the transportation routes for the gas flows have been determined, Gazprom said in a brief statement on Tuesday, easing concerns on the market and sending prices lower on Tuesday morning.

Despite the calmer gas markets in the past three days, uncertainty over Russia's intentions, and now the Belarus-EU spat could make Europe's gas prices extremely volatile again.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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