Lithuania has announced that it will close two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus next week, citing security concerns over the presence of Russian-backed Wagner fighters and the influx of illegal migrants from its eastern neighbor. The decision came as tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months, with Lithuania accusing Belarus of orchestrating a hybrid war against it and the European Union.
Lithuania’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas said on Friday that Belarus has become a state that harbors a terrorist organization, referring to the Wagner group, a private military contractor that has been linked to Russia’s involvement in conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, and other countries. He said that Belarus was cooperating with the Kremlin and that the attacks on the Lithuanian border were intended to destabilize Lithuania and the EU.
Lithuania has also faced a surge in illegal migration from Belarus, which it says is a deliberate attempt by Minsk to put pressure on Vilnius for its support of the pro-democracy movement in Belarus. More than 4,000 migrants, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus this year, compared to 81 in 2020. Lithuania has declared a state of emergency and built a barbed wire fence along its 679-kilometer (422-mile) border with Belarus.