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US tells its citizens to leave Belarus

by Martin Fornusek August 22, 2023 10:17 AM 2 min read
Cars and people with bicycles wait at the Sumskas border crossing point between Lithuania and Belarus on Aug. 12, 2023. (Photo credit: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images)
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The U.S. Embassy in Belarus asked American citizens on Aug. 21 to depart the country immediately, shortly after Lithuania closed two of its border crossings.

On Aug. 18, Vilnius decided to close two border crossings with Belarus at Tverecius-Vidzy and Sumskas-Losha, leaving four checkpoints still open. The governments of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia said that further closures may come.

The U.S. citizens have been told to consider departing via the remaining crossings with Lithuania and Latvia, or by a plane, the embassy's statement said. Google Flights listed no connections between the U.S. and Belarus, with flights to European capitals costing thousands of dollars.

Americans are not allowed to enter Poland from Belarus, and the embassy discouraged them from traveling to Russia or to Ukraine.

The embassy also asked the U.S. citizens not to travel to Belarus due to Minsk's "facilitation of Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus, the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, (and) the risk of detention."

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.

However, over a thousand of them have reportedly departed due to low pay, Ukraine's National Resistance Center reported on Aug. 19.

In response to the escalating tensions, countries at NATO's eastern flank began reinforcing their eastern borders and limiting the number of border crossings.

National Resistance Center: Wagner fighters leave Belarus due to low pay
Over a thousand Wagner Group mercenaries have departed Belarus because they are unhappy with their pay, the National Restistance Center reported on Aug. 19.
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