Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday threatened to cut European transit routes through Belarusian territory if sanctions are imposed on his country.
Speaking while visiting a dairy factory, Lukashenko said he would block neighboring European countries from shipping goods to Russia over Belarusian territory and divert Belarusian exports now shipped through ports in neighboring EU member Lithuania to other outlets.
"If they, Poles and Lithuanians, used to fly through us to China and Russia, now they will fly through the Baltic or through the Black Sea to trade with Russia, and so on, and they can only dream of sanctioned products, those products on which Russia has imposed an embargo,” he said.
Lukashenko also said he had ordered half the country’s army to be at combat preparedness and had agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that troops of both countries could unite against a potential Western threat.
“If they (NATO troops) don't hold still, it's necessary to use a joint grouping of armed forces, the basis of which is the Belarusian army,” Lukashenko said. “The Russians must support us and follow us."
Lithuania, Poland and Latvia have called for Europe to take stronger action against Lukashenko, in face of a nearly three-week popular uprising since the August 9 election, which the opposition maintains he rigged to prolong his 26-year rule. Lukashenko has denied the accusations.
Since the Monday after the election, when Belarusian Central Election Commission declared Lukashenko received over 80% of the votes and opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya about 10%, thousands have taken to the streets demanding Lukashenko’s resignation.
Lukashenko has said the protests are encouraged and supported by the West and accused NATO of moving forces near Belarusian borders. The alliance has denied the accusations.