VILNIUS – Actions taken by Belarus to encourage illegal migration are “a systematically planned and organized hybrid operation by Alexander Lukashenko’s regime” targeting Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the European Union (EU) as a whole, defense ministers of the three Baltic countries and Poland have said.
Ministers Arvydas Anusauskas of Lithuania, Artis Pabriks of Latvia, Kalle Laanet of Estonia and Mariusz Blaszczak of Poland affirmed that shared understanding during their Thursday meeting on the sidelines of the informal meeting of EU defense ministers in Slovenia, the Ministry of Defense said in a press release.
"The scale of the illegal migration crisis has expanded – although initially this hybrid attack organized by the Lukashenko regime was aimed only towards Lithuania, now there is aggression against Latvia and Poland as well. This may become a security problem affecting not only our region, but also the entire European Union, therefore, in order to prevent it, we must be united and act together,” Anusauskas said during a meeting.
Defense ministers of the Baltic countries and Poland had agreed that mutual solidarity was particularly important in the run-up to the Russian-Belarusian strategic military exercise ZAPAD-2021, the press release said.
The ministers expressed concerns that “the unpredictable activities and lack of transparency on the Belarusian side” could potentially lead to an undesired escalation, provocations and incidents on the border during the exercise.
Lithuania was the first among Belarus’ neighboring countries to face an influx of illegal migration this year.
Over 4,100 migrants have crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally so far this year, compared to just 81 in all of 2020.
Lithuania has declared a state-level extreme situation over the unprecedented migration influx which it says is being orchestrated by the Belarusian regime.