Lithuania could shut Belarus border in case of incidents, intelligence warnings – minister

  • 2023-08-18
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania could close its border with Belarus completely if it received information about incidents or warnings from intelligence bodies, but this should only be done jointly with other neighbors, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said on Thursday evening. 

"When this whole Wagner situation started, we immediately took decisions and prepared the necessary legislation so that we could immediately close all our borders if a certain situation emerged and the threat level changed (because of) incidents (or) information from our intelligence bodies," Bilotaite told LRT TV.  

"I have to emphasize that it is very important that this (border closure) is not just a national decision of one state. Because if we stay alone or if we leave a country alone, it will not have any effect," she added.

The Baltic and Polish ministers are to meet in Warsaw in late August to discuss a mechanism for a "regional decision" should they need to close their borders with Belarus completely, according to Bilotaite. 

"This is a complete closure of the border, except perhaps for a humanitarian corridor or a passage for diplomats," she said.

Bilotaite said that Rustamas Liubajevas, the border guard chief, and she had also discussed earlier on Thursday the possibility of closing all checkpoints with Russia in case of threats. 

"We have to be clear about what to do and what step follows what, what legislative changes are needed and what actions our officers have to take so that we can ensure a smooth process and the security of our state in the event of new threats," she said.

Bilotaite said that there were no real threats from Russia at the moment, but that all risks, including various provocations, were being assessed. 

Asked how Lithuania would deal with Belarusian political refugees if the borders were to be closed, the minister said the authorities would consider maintaining a humanitarian corridor for people fleeing the Minsk regime, but would also assess the risks of hostile persons posing as refugees to enter the country.

The authorities "are ready" to react if at least one Wagner fighter crosses the border, according to Bilotaite. 

Lithuania has set up a physical barrier and a surveillance system along its border, has military and interior system personnel on duty at the border, and has updated its border cover plan covering the interaction between the State Border Guard Service and the Armed Forces, she noted.