HomeTop StoriesLithuania closes 2 checkpoints with Belarus due to Wagner Group border problems

Lithuania closes 2 checkpoints with Belarus due to Wagner Group border problems

Lithuania on Wednesday decided to temporarily close two of its six checkpoints with Belarus later this week amid rising tensions with its eastern neighbour, an ally of Russia.

The Lithuanian government has said that the border crossings at Tverecius and Sumskas will be closed and traffic will be diverted to the Medininkai border checkpoint, the largest of Lithuania’s six checkpoints.

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The decision came as Lithuanians grew increasingly concerned about Russia’s presence Wagner group mercenaries in Belarus.

“The main aim is to temporarily suspend operations at these two points from August 18,” said Deputy Transport Minister Agnė Vaiciukeviciūte, adding that the move provided the opportunity to send agents carrying out border control checks to other points.

Lithuania, a Baltic nation that declared independence from the Soviet Union 33 years ago, is a democracy belonging to NATO and the European Union. It has been a strong mainstay of Ukraine and in recent years has been a haven for many who have fled authoritarianism in neighboring Belarus and increasing repression in Russia.

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Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of the Lithuanian state border guard, said there could be up to 4,500 Wagner fighters in Belarus, some stationed close to the Lithuanian and Polish borders.

In neighboring Latvia, the State Border Guard Service said on Tuesday it was mobilizing additional border guards to strengthen protection at the external border, the LETA news agency said.

This decision was made due to the sharp increase in the hybrid threat at the Latvian-Belarusian border in recent days, when 96 attempts by people to cross the state border were detected, as well as the increased involvement of the Belarusian authorities in the organizing the flow of illegal immigrants.

Latvian authorities view attempts by the regime of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to push migrants across borders as methods of hybrid warfare against these countries.

LETA said state border guard officers’ annual leave had been suspended. The State Border Guard has also requested additional support from the National Armed Forces and the State Police.

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Lithuania has also seen migrants arriving from Belarus. A total of 11,211 people have been denied entry to Lithuania from Belarus since January 2022, according to the State Border Service. And some 1,543 were not allowed in so far this year.

Resolving Allied Russian-Belarusian Joint Military Exercises
Amphibious armored personnel carriers participate in the joint Allied Resolve 2022 military exercises held by Belarusian and Russian forces at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training area.

Peter Kovalev/TASS/Getty Images

Countries bordering Belarus have increased border security since thousands of Wagner fighters arrived in Russia-allied Belarus under an agreement that ended their armed insurrection in late June and enabled them and their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin to avoid criminal prosecution.

In recent days, Poland, which is located south of Lithuania, has sent thousands of troops to the border with Belarus.

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