Lithuania to close border checkpoints with Belarus – vicemin

  • 2023-08-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Lithuania plans to close two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus in response to the arrival of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus, Interior Vice Minister Arnoldas Abramavicius confirmed on Friday.

"A decision will be made soon on the closure of two border checkpoints. If today Poland has one checkpoint, we have six. One of the preventive measures would be to reduce the number of checkpoints from six to four," Abramavicius told the public radio LRT, adding that Lithuania mulls closing the Sumskas and Tverecius border checkpoints.

The government will have to make the final decision on this matter.

The closure of some of the existing border checkpoints on the border with Belarus will reduce risks, Saulius Nekracevicius, deputy head of the State Border Guard Service, told BNS on Friday.

"If we reduce the number of people traveling through, we also reduce the threats," he said.

In his words, the Sumskas and Tverecius checkpoints have limited capacity to allow vehicles and persons through. 

"Not all vehicles pass through the Tverecius and Sumskas checkpoints because of the roads, the infrastructure of the checkpoints, the capacity in the neighboring country and the infrastructure there. It was agreed a long time ago that not all vehicles would pass through these checkpoints. No vehicles with goods pass through the Tverecius border checkpoints, and only vehicles up to 3.5 tons go through Sumskas," the SBGS officer said.

According to him, not only national but also regional decisions are taken into account when considering the closure of several border checkpoints.

"Our Polish neighbors have closed their border checkpoints (with Belarus - BNS) in stages, and they currently have one international road border checkpoint and three or four railway border checkpoints. So we would be contributing to a regional solution to apply uniform measures," Nekrasevicius said.

For his part, Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense, also told the LRT radio on Friday that the closure of some Lithuanian border checkpoints was only a matter of time in response to the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus.

"I have always said that this (Belarusian border closure - BNS) could be an option and we can do it. In fact, I would like to say that a couple of months ago, the CNSD recommended considering closing certain border checkpoints," Kasciunas told the LRT radio on Friday.

"Closing some checkpoints is only a matter of time at all. It will definitely be done. I may not elaborate on which ones, but if we see that the situation is getting worse, a decision will be made to close the border completely," he said.

Speaking in Poland's Suwalki Region on Thursday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said Vilnius, Warsaw and Riga must be ready to close their borders with Belarus together, if the security situation deteriorated because of Wagner mercenaries. Polish officials have also hinted at this possibility.

"We are a bit different from the Poles. The Poles are a bit more public in their show of force at the border. We do it less in public, but the whole plan, the whole preparedness is in place. At some stage, our army would be involved," Kasciunas said.

There are currently some 4,000 Wagner mercenaries in Belarus, the Lithuanian and Polish leaders said on Thursday. Some of them are close to the Lithuanian and Polish borders, Nauseda said and added that the number of fighters in Belarus was not final and may rise up to 10,000.