Kremlin hopes Belarus won't stop gas transit to EU amid migrant crisis

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko speaks to migrants as he visits the transport and logistics centre Bruzgi on the Belarusian-Polish border, in the Grodno region, Belarus November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

MOSCOW, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Russia hopes Belarus will not suspend gas transit to Europe, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to block shipments as part of a crisis over migrants at the border.

The EU has accused Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to cross into the bloc via Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus denies creating the crisis, and has received backing from Russia, its main ally.

Lukashenko said he was ready to suspend Russian energy flows to Europe over its territory if Poland closes its border with Belarus, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Belarus was under "unprecedented, unjustified and aggressive" pressure from some Western nations, and President Vladimir Putin had "expressed his understanding" of Lukashenko's tough responses.

"But on the other hand, the president is counting on this not resulting in any breaches of our obligations towards European gas buyers, especially at such a tough time for the Europeans" Peskov said.

European gas prices at the Dutch TTF hub, the benchmark day-ahead gas contract , were up 2.5% at 93.60 euros per megawatt hour at 1210 GMT, up from 93 euros per MWh at the opening.

Russian natural gas supplies to Germany through the Yamal-Europe pipeline which runs via Belarus were slightly lower on Wednesday, at an hourly volume of more than 10,000,000 kilowatt hours (kWh), versus more than 11,000,000 kWh/h on Tuesday, data from German network operator Gascade showed.

With no signs of the flows being hit by the Belarus threats so far, Russian state gas export company Gazprom bought 324 GWh/d of capacity at the Mallnow metering point on the Polish border on a daily auction for Wednesday, Refinitiv Eikon data showed.

The Polish Defence Minister said on Wednesday that the Belarusian defence attache had been summoned after lights set up by Polish soldiers near the town of Terespol were damaged by fire from air guns.

"The provocations of the Belarusian services are absolutely unacceptable," Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry was not immediately available to comment.

Poland's President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday signed into law new regulations letting the government limit access to areas around the border. The law came into effect on Wednesday, replacing a state of emergency that expired overnight. read more

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova, Dmitry Antonov, Oksana Kobzeva and Katya Golubkova in Moscow, Alan Charlish in Warsaw, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Writing by Alexander Marrow/Katya Golubkova; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Alex Richardson

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