Belarus' intelligence steps up efforts to recruit Lithuanian travelers – body

  • 2023-03-01
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanians travelling to Belarus risk being recruited to collaborate with hostile countries' intelligence services, the State Security Department (VSD) warned on Wednesday.

According to the Lithuanian intelligence agency, Belarusian intelligence and security services have stepped up their activities since last weekend, which has increased the threats and risks for Lithuanian citizens visiting Belarus.

„"Recently, the majority of recruitment and espionage cases have been instances of intelligence from the territory", meaning that people were recruited by hostile intelligence bodies on the territory of Belarus or Russia, it said in a press release. 

VSD said it has been recently contacted by Lithuanian citizens who were subjected to checks by Belarusian officials. 

Lithuanian citizens travelling to Belarus receive additional attention from Belarusian officials at border checkpoints and other locations in the neighboring country, according to the press release. 

Travelers are questioned in an effort to find out the purpose of their visit and obtain their personal information, and have their personal belongings, including mobile phones, checked, it said. 

"Belarus' services seek to obtain data on the citizen's political views, relatives, friends, workplace and other relevant information, and their attitude towards Russia's war against Ukraine," VSD said. 

"Such questioning is used to recruit and involve Lithuanian citizens in activities hostile to the state," it said, adding that computers and mobile devices taken by Belarus' officials for checks are likely to be returned with compromised security systems.

VSD warned that any support for Ukraine or Belarusian opposition, or condemnation of Russia's aggression could be treated as hostile activities by Belarusian authorities, which could lead to detention or even imprisonment in the neighboring country. 

"We urge all travelers to be vigilant and exercise caution. It is advised to avoid travelling to both Belarus and Russia unless necessary," it said. 

The agency noted that it is not only Lithuanian citizens with access to classified information who may be targeted by Belarus' intelligence services.

"Russian and Belarusian intelligence services, which cooperate closely, have recently been making efforts to recruit anyone who can provide valuable information on issues of interest to them," it said. 

VSD urges all people who have received attention from Belarus' security or intelligence services, have faced attempts to involve them in compromising situations or have found themselves in suspicious situations on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border to report this to the department.