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Latvia closes border crossing point with Belarus

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 19, 2023 3:30 PM 2 min read
The Latvia/Belarus border near Krivanda, Eastern Latvia is pictured on August 8, 2023, during a visit by the President of Latvia. (Photo by GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP via Getty Images)
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Latvia will close one of its two border crossing points with Belarus due to the ongoing Minsk-engineered migrant crisis, the Latvian government announced on Sept. 19.

Latvia has suspended the operation of its Silene border crossing point, while its second checkpoint with Belarus will remain open for freight transport, urgent humanitarian movement, and emergencies.

Beginning in 2021, Minsk engineered a migrant crisis at its borders with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, having funneled thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa under the false promise of easy asylum in the European Union.

Over the past week, Latvian border guards intercepted nearly 900 people trying to cross the border from Belarus, bringing the total number to 1,773 for September so far, according to LETA, Latvia's main news agency.

On Sept. 11, the Latvian Radio reported that the State Border Guard would ask the government to close the Silene crossing so that more personnel would be available to secure the border.

Tensions between Belarus and its EU neighbors have been mounting since 2021.

However, the Wagner mercenary group’s presence in Belarus, increased Belarusian military drills near its borders, and Minsk’s involvement in Russia’s full-scale war have escalated tensions.

In response to the Wagner Group’s presence in Belarus, Lithuania announced on Aug. 18 that it would close two out of six border crossings with Belarus.

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service has said that since the reported death of Wagner's leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, on Aug. 23, the number of Wagner Group mercenaries stationed in Belarus is gradually decreasing.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said at a summit in Warsaw on Aug. 28 that a “critical situation” would lead to Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland shutting their borders with Belarus entirely.

The only remaining crossing point between Belarus and Latvia is at Paternieki.

Baltic countries ban entry for Russian registered vehicles
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have banned entry to their respective countries for vehicles registered in Russia after a recommendation by the European Commission.

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