İrem UZUN -TDO- Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko threatened on Friday to cut off European transit routes across his country if sanctions are imposed. “They got fat and forgot what Belarus is. And thought we could be frightened off with rockets and tanks,” Belta state news agency quoted him as saying. “Well let’s see who is afraid of whom. We’ll show them what sanctions are.”
Lukashenko, who is facing the biggest challenge of his 26-year-old rule, also ordered that half the army of the country of 9.5 million enter combat preparedness in response to what he said were threats from the West. He said he had agreed with Russian President Vladimir Putin that their countries could unite their troops in the event of a threat from the West but added that not a single Russian soldier had yet crossed the border into Belarus.
German chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters she had tried to speak to Lukashenko by phone but he had declined. Speaking of a reserve police force which Russian President Vladimir Putin said had been created on Lukashenko's request, she said "I hope that such troops are not deployed. Freedom to demonstrate, freedom of expression has to be fought for there. The people must be allowed to do that themselves without interference from outside, from anywhere". EU ministers are currently considering travel bans and asset freezes on up to 20 people responsible for a crackdown on demonstrators two weeks after an election they say was rigged.