2020.03.17 15:08

Lithuanian delegation departs for Poland as border closures wreak havoc

BNS 2020.03.17 15:08

A Lithuanian government delegation departed for Warsaw on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the return of stranded Lithuanians via Poland and the issue of growing queues of commercial vehicles on the border.

On Tuesday, an almost 50-kilometre queue formed on the Kalvarija-Budzinsko checkpoint. The second, Lazdijai-Ogrodniki, border post was opened later on Tuesday evening.

According to Lithuanian Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė, the agreement to open the border was reached following cooperation with the Polish government "on all levels".

Meanwhile, hundreds of Lithuanians have been stranded on the Polish-German border ever since Poland closed its border to foreigners. Although commercial vehicles are allowed to cross, long queues have been reported at the border due to the increased checks.

Read more: Lithuanian economy could contract up to 2.8 percent, finance minister warns

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis previously warned that if no solution is found, the problems at the border might evolve into a humanitarian crisis.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, Interior Vice Minister Česlovas Mulna, Deputy Government Chancellor Deividas Matulionis, and commander of the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), Rustamas Liubajevas, flew to Poland on a military plane.

Lithuanian border guards bar 107 people from leaving, 341 from entering due to quarantine

After Lithuania was placed under quarantine on Monday, 107 people were prevented from leaving the country as of Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, 341 people were also barred from entering Lithuania.

Giedrius Mišutis, spokesman of the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), told BNS the majority of the people were barred at the Medininkai crossing on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, where 108 Belarusians and 24 Ukrainians wanted to enter.

Seventy-three people, including 69 Latvian citizens, have not been allowed to enter Lithuania through the Saločiai border post between Lithuania and Latvia.

Meanwhile, 49 Lithuanian citizens have not been allowed to travel to Latvia via Saločiai.

"There's a natural sense of dissatisfaction when one's trip is disrupted. They are tense. But there have been no conflicts over the past 24 hours or any need to use physical force," Mišutis said.

Reintroduced border control has also forced border guards to adjust their workload, and officers from other units are also being asked to carry out border checks.

"It's hard, really hard. We are getting officers from other units involved who have not performed such functions so far, including the border control unit, special purpose teams, criminal intelligence," the VSAT spokesman said.

Lithuania was laced under quarantine on Monday for two weeks. Citizens are barred from leaving the country and foreigners are banned from entering, with certain exceptions.