Seimas vice speaker against restricting movement between Lithuania, Belarus

  • 2023-01-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Vytautas Mitalas, a deputy speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas and the chair of the Freedom Party political group in the Seimas, says he would not support the idea of restricting the movement of Lithuanian citizens to Belarus or introducing tighter controls on Belarusians willing to enter Lithuania.

Although the Minsk regime is actively supporting Russia's war against Ukraine, the mass demonstrations held in Belarus after the 2020 presidential election that was not recognized in the West demonstrated Belarusian people seek democracy.

"That's why I would have a different attitude towards Belarus, towards that border issue, and it would be different from the existing attitude towards Russia, the issue of Russia's borders. When some politicians propose to close everything down or to change something, the question is whether there are any grounds for such decisions," Mitalas told the Ziniu Radijas news radio.

Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius has recently said Lithuania should consider restricting the entry of Belarusian citizens into the country, and should also deal with the issue of Lithuanians travelling to Belarus.

"If some MEPs have specific comments on what needs to be improved in terms of security or migration procedures, then let's talk about those procedures. Now, it seems to me that this is a very bold statement made with closed eyes: just close everything down and ignore everything. That statement is out of place in this case," Mitalas said.

A visa-free regime for Lithuanian citizens is in place in Belarus since April 2022. Lithuania's State Security Department warned earlier that Russian and Belarusian intelligence services were stepping up their efforts to recruit incoming Lithuanian citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs currently advises against traveling to Belarus but there's no strict ban on this.

There are also current visa restrictions for Russian and Belarusian nationals in Lithuania, and visitors from these countries are required to fill in a special questionnaire on their stance on Russia's aggression in Ukraine. Russian citizens are subject to a stricter procedure and even visa holders are not allowed to enter Lithuania if they fail to meet the criteria set by the Lithuanian government.

Mitalas says a Belarusian diaspora is being established in Lithuania, adding that Lithuania's "historic mission is to help them democratize".