watch us on facebook
Lithuania will close two out of six border crossings with neighboring Belarus on Aug. 18, Deputy Transport Minister Agne Vaiciukeviciute announced, the Associated Press reported.
Vaiciukeviciute cited the presence of the Kremlin-linked private mercenary Wagner Group in Belarus as one of the major reasons for the closures.
Following the end of the brief but disruptive Wagner Group rebellion in Russia in June, thousands of their fighters relocated to Belarus. They have since engaged in military exercises that can be heard from across the Polish border.
The announced closure of the two Lithuanian border crossings was shortly followed by another statement from Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite about the planned total shutting of the border between the Baltic states, Poland, and Belarus, Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT) reported.
There is a “need to reduce threats," Bilotaite stated, adding that the full closures would be discussed collaboratively between Belarus’s neighbors at upcoming talks in Warsaw.
Despite the tension between Lithuania and Belarus, a considerable amount of Lithuanian citizens continue to use Minsk’s visa-free regime to travel to Belarus, often to take advantage of the lower cost of goods at duty free shops by the border, according to LRT.
According to statistics from Belarus, at least 170,000 Lithuanian citizens have entered the country so far in 2023, LRT reported. The Lithuanian government has discouraged its citizens from visiting, placing signs by the border that state, “Do not travel to Belarus. You may fail to come back.”