2020.03.16 17:57

Stranded Lithuanians block traffic on German-Polish border, air force dispatches transport plane

BNS2020.03.16 17:57

Lithuanians stranded at the German-Polish border blocked traffic as Vilnius failed to convince Warsaw to allow them to pass on their way home. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Air Force sent its C-27J Spartan plane to pick up some of the stranded citizens.

"We are aware of the situation at the German-Polish border. We have been informed that Lithuanians want to block the road," Rasa Jakilaitienė, the ministry's spokeswoman, told BNS on Monday afternoon.

Read more: Coronavirus updates: 3 new cases, Lithuania to start drive-in testing

"The Foreign Ministry continues to make every effort to resolve the situation at the German-Polish border," she added.

However, videos circulating on social media showed tens of Lithuanians standing on the road and blocking traffic at the German-Polish border.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said earlier on Monday that over 400 cars were waiting to cross from Germany into Poland en route to Lithuania.

Poland closed its borders to foreign nationals at midnight on Sunday in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Lithuanian leaders and diplomats continue talks with Poland on a humanitarian corridor to allow Lithuanians to return home via the neighboring country.

Lithuania sends military plane to bring back some of the citizens stranded in Germany

Lithuania dispatched on Monday a military plane to fly home its citizens stranded in Germany.

The C-27J Spartan operated by the Lithuanian Air Force took off from Šiauliai airport at 16:00 local time, according to the Defence Ministry.

"The aircraft will not only fly back people [...], but will also bring donor stem cells for transplantation," it said in a press release.

The Spartan can accommodate only around 36 people.

In an effort to help deal with the coronavirus crisis, Lithuanian troops are also on standby at the country's airports and border checkpoints.

Lithuania may hold talks with Poland on additional border crossing

Meanwhile, if queues at the Lithuanian-Polish border do not clear in the coming days, the Lithuanian government is considering initiating talks with the neighbouring country on opening an additional border crossing, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Monday.

In an attempt to contain the spread of coronavirus, Lithuania and Poland have reinstated internal border controls and imposed entry bans on all foreign travelers. The restrictions do not apply to the movement of goods, however.

A 12-kilometre queue of vehicles waited to cross into Poland from Lithuania at the Kalvarija-Budzisko border checkpoint on Monday morning.

The border crossing is currently the only land route from Lithuania to Poland as all other roads between the two countries have been closed.

Skvernelis called on truckers to fill out the required questionnaires in advance in order to shorten the procedures. If this fails to resolve the problem, a new checkpoint could be opened, he said.

Lithuanian Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė said, however, that talks with Poland could be difficult, with Warsaw seeking to enforce the quarantine.

"Poland, as we know, is a transit country, so many will be willing to cross it or set up more checkpoints. Therefore, it is difficult to predict what decisions the Polish government might take," she told reporters.

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