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Lithuanian Minister: Lithuania to close two border checkpoints with Belarus

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 4, 2023 4:56 PM 2 min read
Lithuanian border guard officers patrol along the Belarus–Lithuania border on July 10, 2023 in Dieveniskes, Lithuania. (Photo credit: Omar Marques/Getty Images)
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Lithuania plans to close two border checkpoints with Belarus due to the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries on Belarusian territory, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reported on Aug. 4, citing Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavicius.

"A decision will be taken in the future on the closure of two border checkpoints," Abramavicius said.

The deputy minister pointed out that there are currently six checkpoints between the two countries. The two crossings considered for closure are Sumskas and Tverecius, according to Abramavicius.

The Lithuanian official reminded that the final decision by the government has yet to be taken.

Chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee of the Lithuanian Parliament Laurynas Kasciunas said on Aug. 4 that the closing of several crossings with Belarus is only a matter of time.

According to the lawmaker, the National Security and Defense Committee recommended limiting the number of checkpoints already several months ago.

On Aug. 3, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda to discuss the threat posed by the Wagner Group's presence in Belarus.

Nauseda said that Wagner mercenaries in Belarus present an additional security risk for Lithuania, Poland, and NATO allies. Since March 2023, the Wagner Group has been considered a terrorist organization in Lithuania, due to the threat its members pose to the state's security.

Lithuania's head of state also said that Vilnius, Riga, and Warsaw should be ready to jointly close their borders with Belarus if the situation with Wagner deteriorates.

Recently, thousands of Wagner fighters have moved into Belarus at Minsk's invitation following the mercenary group's short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin in late June.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that he brokered a deal that meant the fighters would leave Russia. Minsk has claimed that the mercenaries are training the Belarusian military, with exercises taking place even in the westernmost Brest Oblast not far from the Polish border.

Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced on July 18 that Poland's border with Belarus will be reinforced with two additional military brigades in response to Wagner's presence.

Ukraine's National Resistance Center reported on July 27 that the group continues to recruit fighters while based in Belarus, under the new condition that the new recruits are ready to participate in hostilities in neighboring Poland and Lithuania.

Lithuanian President, Polish PM meet to discuss Wagner threat
President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda announced on Aug. 3 that he met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to discuss the presence of the Wagner Group in Belarus and the threats it poses.

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