On Monday, the Belarusian Defence Ministry claimed it used Mi-24 military helicopters to stop eight air balloons “with anti-state slogans” from crossing the border during the Freedom Way demonstration in Lithuania.
“A probe of eight balloons with anti-state symbols was launched from the adjacent territory. Thanks to the actions of the crews of the Mi-24 helicopters [...], the flight of balloons was stopped without the use of weapons,” said the ministry, according to the independent Belarusian news website, TUT.by.
On Sunday, some 50,000 people – including Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and other officials – formed a human chain from Vilnius to the Belarusian border to express solidarity with protesters in the neighbouring country.
Read more: People in Lithuania form human chain from Vilnius to Belarusian border
Several air balloons, including one flying a 15-metre white-red-white flag, were launched during the demonstration.
Alexander Lukashenko previously vowed to "prevent actions like this" after claiming the human chain will involve “300,000 people” from “Vilnius to Kyiv”.
‘Belarus breached Lithuanian airspace’, says Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius
“Their [Belarusian] helicopter breached our airspace and the Belarusian ambassador was presented with a strict note of protest,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told BNS on Monday.
According to Linkevičius, the Belarusian military helicopter was spotted near Medininkai, a Lithuanian town close to the border.
“It was seen visually. We have all the information from our air traffic controllers [confirming] that there has been a violation,” he said.