Belarus revealed a scheme for arms smuggling from Ukraine to Russia, chairman of the State Customs Committee Yuri Senko in an interview with the Belarus 1 TV channel.
The customs and the KGB of Belarus helped uncover the scheme of illegal arms transfers from Ukraine through Belarusian territory to Russia.
“Weapons were transported from Ukraine through the Republic of Belarus to Lithuania and from there moved in larger batches to the Russian Federation,” he said.
According to him, later a whole arsenal was seized in Russia: machine guns, pistols, rifles, and about nine thousand ammunition.
Belarus has opened three times as many criminal cases into arms smuggling in 2019 as it did in the same period last year, Senko said.
He said traffic across the Belarussian border is up from last year due to expanded infrastructure and use of information technologies. Around 73,000 people cross the Belarussian border every day, he added. Senko’s customs service uncovered 31,000 offenses in January-August 2019. He said the number of offenses has increased in every category compared to January-August 2018.
Senko also said that at the same time the number of attempts to transport drugs across the border is growing – 129 criminal cases have been opened in Belarus over the last eight months.
“The amount of drugs is four times more by weight than in the same period last year: almost 626 kilograms were seized against 155 last year,” Senko specified.
At the same time, according to him, most of the seized substances were intended for Russian recipients and they were brought in by Russian couriers.
On September 3rd, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the republic was forced to close the border with Ukraine due to the rushing flow of weapons.
Over the past year, according to the State Border Committee of the country, more than 800 ammunition and 76 weapons were seized on the border with Ukraine.
Following that, Lukashenko gave the instruction to strengthen the protection of the southern borders and did not rule out an increase in the number of border guards, because he said he knew “how much trouble there is for Belarus today, including weapons being transported.”
Meanwhile, US and Belarus announced that they would return their ambassadors, in an attempt to mend official diplomatic relations.
In 2008, Belarus ordered the staff of the U.S. Embassy to be sharply reduced, in response to sanctions imposed by Washington. Since then, both countries’ embassies had been led by charges d’affaires.
On September 17th, 2019, Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale travelled to Minsk to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and other officials.
During a meeting with Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makey, and following a meeting with Lukashenko, Hale announced that the countries would once more return their ambassadors to the respective country.
“I am pleased to stand here today with Foreign Minister Makei to recognize our joint efforts to move our bilateral relationship forward. Our meeting today marks an historic juncture in U.S. – Belarus relations. It is my honor to announce that we are prepared to exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing our relationship.”
The diplomat claimed that in view of Belarus’ strong relations with Russia, the US is “not asking” the country to choose between East and West.
“I would like to reiterate that by normalizing our relationship, we are not asking Belarus to choose between East and West. The United States respects Belarus’ desire to chart its own course and to contribute to peace and stability in the region.
There are still aspects of the Belarus Democracy Act with which the Belarusian government needs to contend, and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections represent an opportunity to address the spirit of the concerns outlined in the Belarus Democracy Act. With such progress, we can discuss further easing of sanctions.”
On the side of the Belarus, Lukashenko told Hale he was “pleased” to see that Washington had “finally” turned its attention toward Belarus.
According to MSM, and especially US government-funded media, Lukashenko’s words are a “swipe” at Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian media.
He said that in the world, nobody was “pure as snow,” and that everybody held some blame.
“We clearly understand that it doesn’t happen in life that one person is responsible and all others are as pure as snow,” the Belarusian leader said.
Furthermore, he claimed that no intermediate-range missiles would be deployed in Belarus for either side, following the collapse of the INF at the US behest.
The “sudden” US interest in Belarus is no incident. In recent years Minsk has achieved importance, due to the Minsk talks primarily, but also because Ukraine appears to be a failing pressure point against Russia.
Washington needs a new direction from which to push towards Moscow and Belarus appears as an ideal possibility.
MORE ON THE TOPIC: