Exercise planned to test Belarusian border closure algorithm – Lithuanian minister

  • 2023-10-27
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - A regional exercise is planned to test the agreed algorithms for closing the border with Belarus, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says.

"Those criteria are already in place, we have agreed to even hold some exercises involving our institutions," the minister said on Friday after meeting in Vilnius with representatives from the Interior Ministries of Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Finland, Poland and Norway.

"Today, we discussed the more general context of possible situations, and today we confirmed that the format that we had in Warsaw and our joint action was a very serious signal, first of all, to Belarus, and they have certainly felt that we are very seriously prepared to act together in a coordinated manner," Bilotaite said.

She said that a test would be carried out "to see how the algorithm could work during such regional exercises".

"Those things are foreseen and we are planning to do that," she said.

In late August, the interior ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland agreed that their borders with Belarus could be closed in the event of an armed incident involving illegal migrants.

It was also agreed that in the event of one of these criteria, there would be an operational exchange of information, firstly at the inter-institutional level, and then a decision would be made at the inter-governmental level.

"We want to have similar criteria and we are coordinating and will continue coordinating them, but today's agenda did not include a dedicated item to discuss in detail the criteria themselves. We plan to do that at the technical level," the minister said on Friday.

Lithuania has closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus.

The Belarusian opposition has asked for humanitarian corridors to be left open for people fleeing the Belarusian regime's crackdown to be able to enter countries in the region.

Irregular migration in the region was also discussed during the meeting. Latvia has recently seen an increase in the inflow of irregular migrants as the country recorded as many as 144 attempts to enter illegally over the past 24 hours alone.

Lithuania is also providing assistance to Latvia and sends its border guards every two weeks to help protect the Latvian-Belarusian border.

Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told reporters that the number of attempts to cross into the country has stabilized, and there is no need for additional help from neighboring countries.

"We are approximately at the same pressure level. If the situation becomes worse, yes, we will ask our closest neighbors for more support," the Latvian minister said.

The influx of migrants from Belarus to the EU's eastern member states started in 2021 and the West blames the Minsk regime for it. Almost 4,200 migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus then, but most of them have left the country since movement restrictions were lifted.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko thanked the countries in the region for their support to his country as it has been fighting against the Russian invasion since February 2022.

Ukrainian border guards had taken all necessary measures to ensure that none of the weapons used in the war illegally entered the European Union, he said.

Speaking of the country's demining missions, he expects more support from countries in the region.

We are in dire need of addition equipment, for example, demining machines," Klymenko said and also stressed the importance of humanitarian and medical assistance.

In his words, Russia will soon step up its attacks on energy infrastructure, therefore, it needs proper protection, and Ukraine also needs generators.

At the meeting, Klymenko also said he discussed cyber and information security issues, stressing the need for swift information exchange in order to properly ensure the security of both Ukraine and the region.