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Latvia to consider closing border crossing with Belarus

by Martin Fornusek September 12, 2023 11:27 AM 2 min read
"Stop - state border" written in three languages on the Latvian-Belarusian border near Kaplava, Latvia, Nov. 17, 2021. (Photo credit: Alexander Welscher/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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The Latvian State Border Guard will ask the government to close the Silene border crossing with Belarus after a record number of people tried to illegally cross last week, the Latvian Radio reported on Sept. 11.

Head of the Border Guard Guntis Pujāts said on the channel LR1 that during the past seven days, 892 asylum seekers were intercepted trying to enter Latvia from Belarus, making the week "probably the most tense in all three years since 2021."

The official did not rule out the possibility that some of the people managed to evade the security and cross the border.

Aside from the border guards, Riga has called up the military and the police to strengthen its borders with Belarus. Lithuania has also agreed to send an additional 20 border guards to aid Latvia.

The tensions at Belarus' borders with Poland and the Baltic countries have been mounting since 2021 when Minsk engineered a migrant crisis.

Concerns among NATO's eastern members spiked again following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and more recently when fighters of the Russian Wagner Group began moving to Belarus following their short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin.

According to Pujāts, Minsk and the Kremlin decided to focus on Latvia as the main target of their orchestrated migrant crisis.

The Latvian Radio noted that in the event of the Silene crossing's closure, it will leave Patarnieki as the only functioning checkpoint. The head of the State Border Guard hopes that closing Silene will free up personnel to secure the rest of the border.

Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland said earlier that they are ready to fully close their borders with Belarus if a "critical situation" occurs, fearing an escalating migration crisis and the Wagner Group's activity.

Poland, Baltic states threaten to close borders with Belarus
Poland and the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania have promised to shut down their borders with Belarus if a “critical situation” occurs, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said at a summit in Warsaw on Aug. 28.
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