Belarus will reciprocate if sanctions imposed, Lukashenko says

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko on Friday threatened to retaliate with reciprocal measures if any sanctions were imposed’ against his country over an Aug. 9 presidential election, which opponents say, was rigged.

Belarus will reciprocate if sanctions imposed, Lukashenko says

Speaking during a dairy factory visit within the country's east, Lukashenko threatened to chop off transit routes through the country and boycott Lithuanian ports if sanctions were, imposed.

"I've instructed the govt to submit a proposal on reorienting all trade flows from Lithuanian ports to other ones," Belta state press agency quoted Lukashenko as saying. "Let's see how they accept that."

Lukashenko, who is facing the most important challenge of his 26-year-old rule, also ordered that half the military of the country of 9.5 million enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West.

European Union foreign ministers on Thursday sought sanctions against Belarus to pressure Lukashenko into holding new elections. Lukashenko denies electoral fraud and has persistently rejected the opposition's calls to carry a replacement vote.

German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she had tried to talk to Lukashenko by phone but he had declined. Speaking of a reserve police, which Russian President Putin said, had been created’ on Lukashenko's request, she said:

"I hope that such troops aren't deployed."

"(Freedom to demonstrate, freedom of expression) need to be fought for there. The people must be allowed to try to that themselves without interference from outside – from anywhere," Merkel added.

EU ministers are currently considering travel bans and asset freezes on up to twenty people liable for a crackdown on demonstrators fortnight after an election they assert was rigged.

It already has an arms embargo on Belarus but in 2015, during a bid to enhance ties with Lukashenko, the bloc eased economic sanctions that had been in situ in 2004.

However, Western powers are keen to balance sympathy for a nascent Belarusian pro-democracy movement concernedly this might trigger a Russian-backed crackdown. Disruptions to energy supplies also are a fear.

Belarus may be a conduit for Russian oil exports to Europe via the Druzhba pipeline. Energy supplies still flow smoothly; Polish oil and gas pipeline operators told Reuters.


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