Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania on Wednesday determined to quickly shut two of its six checkpoints with Belarus later this week amid rising tensions with its jap neighbor, an ally of Russia.

The Lithuanian authorities has stated that the crossings at Tverecius and Sumskas will probably be closed, and site visitors will probably be diverted to the Medininkai border checkpoint, which is the biggest of Lithuania’s six checkpoints.

The choice got here as Lithuanians develop more and more nervous concerning the presence of Russia-linked Wagner group mercenaries in Belarus.

“The principle objective is to quickly droop operations at these two factors from Aug. 18,” Deputy Minister of Transport Agnė Vaiciukeviciūte stated, including that the transfer provided the potential for directing officers performing border management checks to different factors.

Lithuania, a Baltic nation that declared its independence from the Soviet Union 33 years in the past, is a democracy that belongs to NATO and the European Union. It has been a powerful backer of Ukraine and a spot of refuge in recent times for a lot of who’ve fled an authoritarian crackdown in neighboring Belarus and elevated repression in Russia.

Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, stated that there could possibly be as much as 4,500 of Wagner fighters in Belarus, with a few of them stationed near the Lithuanian and Polish borders.

In neighboring Latvia, the State Border Guard Service stated Tuesday it was mobilizing extra border guards to strengthen the safety of the exterior state border, the LETA information company stated.

This determination was taken because of the sharp enhance within the hybrid risk on the Latvian-Belarusian border over the previous days, when 96 makes an attempt by individuals to cross the state border have been detected, in addition to the elevated involvement of the Belarusian authorities in organizing the movement of unlawful immigrants.

Latvian authorities think about makes an attempt by Belarusian chief Alexander Lukashenko’s regime to push migrants throughout borders to be strategies of hybrid warfare concentrating on these nations.

LETA stated that the annual go away of State Border Guard officers had been suspended. The State Border Guard has additionally requested extra help from the Nationwide Armed Forces and the State Police.

Lithuania, too, has seen migrants coming from Belarus. A complete of 11,211 individuals have been denied entry to Lithuania from Belarus since January 2022, in accordance with the State Border Service. And a few 1,543 haven’t been allowed to enter this 12 months up to now.

Nations bordering Belarus have elevated border safety since 1000’s of Wagner fighters arrived in Russian-allied Belarus underneath a deal that ended their armed riot in late June and allowed them and their chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, to keep away from legal costs.

In latest days, Poland, which sits south of Lithuania, has been deploying 1000’s of troops to its border with Belarus, calling it a deterrent transfer as tensions between the 2 neighbors ratchet up.

___ Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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