VILNIUS – Neighboring Belarus is trying to escalate tensions by launching unplanned military exercises in the border region, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said on Monday.
Belarus does not pose military threat to Lithuania at the moment but Lithuania and its NATO allies are closely watching the military movement in Belarus, the minister said.
"We are closely watching the situation in Belarus. I can confirm the information announced yesterday by Belarus about the starting exercises close to the Lithuanian and Polish borders," the minister said in a statement sent to BNS.
"But we don’t see any military threat from Belarus today. It's an exercise, despite being unplanned, and it involves standard, regular procedures. We are closely watching the military movement in Belarus, check facts, and are in constant contact with NATO allies, as he have been so far," Karoblis said.
In his words, this way Belarus is trying to justify its actions inside the country with an alleged external threat.
"Looking at this situation in general, we see the escalating nature of these actions from the Belarusian side and the wish to further develop that narrative about alleged external threats," he said.
Minsk's narrative "is an attempt to look for the guilty and justify its actions in the eyes of the Belarusian people and the international community".
"Neither Lithuania, nor NATO pose military threat to Belarus. All exercises and any deployment of foreign forces in Lithuania are done for deterrence and defense purposes," Karoblis said.
Amid ongoing mass protests in Belarus against the Lukashenko regime, he warned about NATO's threat on Sunday, and the country' Defense Ministry said military exercises close to the Lithuanian border would start on Monday.