Lukashenko steps up war of words with Russia

Belarusian president Aleksander Lukashenko has slammed the Russian government for what he described as “sanctions”, after Russia imposed an import ban on certain agricultural products from Belarus.

The president’s statement comes a day after Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s agricultural oversight authority, imposed temporary restrictions on apples and pears imported from Belarus.

“They closed one enterprise, then another enterprise. Then they did not like carrot, lettuce, or cucumbers, or things like that. There are suspicions that we deliver things from the wrong places. And our enterprises are closed every day. They are closing the market to us,” said Mr Lukashenko.

Belarus has recently criticised growing Russian energy prices, claiming that the increase is part of Russian efforts to push Belarus to abandon its independence.

Addressing his cabinet, Mr Lukashenko told the government to start repairing Belarusian pipelines, a measure that the president considers long overdue, and which would essentially prevent Russia from delivering oil to Europe through Belarus. “We must take corresponding measures (…). Look into the matter and report to me next week,” the president said, hinting at possible counter-sanctions.

In recent months, Belarus has faced growing pressure from Moscow to further integrate with Russia.