On June 17th, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry announced that it was considering building a border fence on the border with Belarus.
The reason is an alleged surge in illegal migration, which according to Vilnius is ‘weaponized’ by Minsk.
“We are discussing this issue, conducting a study of the possibility of installing a physical fence. And it will probably cost 15 million [euros],“ Bilotaite said.
The press secretary of the Interior Minister Lina Laurinaitite-Grigene said that different options for fencing are being considered: single, double, with barbed wire or alarm systems.
The length of the Lithuanian-Belarusian border is 678.8 kilometers. At the same time, according to Bilotaite, due to the natural terrain, the fence cannot be installed along the entire length.
According to border guards, this year almost 400 migrants illegally crossed the Belarusian-Lithuanian border — five times more than in the whole of 2020. They were mostly Iraqi citizens.
Due to the increased inflow, Lithuania plans to set up a tent city in the border town of Pabrade, specifically to house illegal immigrants. It has also been proposed to install observation systems along the entire length of the border with Belarus. Current capabilities cover just 38% of the frontier.
Earlier, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielus Landsbergis accused Belarus of using illegal migrants as a weapon for hybrid attacks on Europe. According to him, the Belarusian authorities deliver migrants from Syria and Iraq to their territory and then send them to the Lithuanian border.
“This is weaponized migration that is directly aimed at Lithuania,” Landsbergis told the FT. “The reason? It’s quite easy to guess. We are outspoken, and we shelter the main opposition leaders.”
At the end of May, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko allegedly threatened to weaken control over drug trafficking and illegal migration in connection with the Western reaction to the incident with the Ryanair plane.
“We stopped drugs and migrants, now you will eat them and catch them yourself,” he said.
Lithuania is harboring school teacher-turned-opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, who fled to the country, after the opposition’s attempt to dispute elections and stage massive protests failed.
The Belarus General Prosecutor’s Office said it had requested that Lithuania extradite Tsikhanouskaya, “to face prosecution for crimes against the governing order, public safety and the state.”
Prosecutors accuse her and associates of conspiring to incite riots and occupy government buildings in Gomel, the country’s second largest city. Tsikhanouskaya flatly dismissed the accusations.
Vilnius’ response to the request was blunt:
“We can tell the Belarusian regime that we would rather watch hell freeze over than think about their demands,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement.
“Lithuania was and is a wall behind which all democratic forces persecuted by regimes may seek refuge,” he added.
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