2020.09.18 09:18

Belarus to close border with Lithuania and Poland

LRT.lt2020.09.18 09:18

Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko said the country will close its borders with Lithuania and Poland, Reuters news agency reported on Thursday.

“We are compelled to withdraw our troops from the streets, have half our army on guard and close our state border with the West, first of all with Lithuania and Poland,” said Lukashenko, according to Reuters. “To our greatest regret, we are compelled to strengthen our border with brotherly Ukraine.”

As of Friday morning, there has been no disruption to the usual traffic, according to the Lithuanian border guard service. Later the same day, Belarusian State Border Committee confirmed it had beefed up border protection, but said the crossing points were in full operation.

"We have no clarity yet. We could hardly expect to receive any official notification from our Belarusian colleagues overnight, but the situation at the state border has not changed much," Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, told BNS on Friday.

"Naturally, traffic slowed down a bit at night, but vehicles and people continue to cross the state border," he added.

According to Liubajevas, Lithuanian officials will continue to try to contact their Belarusian colleagues.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said there had been similar statements before, from which Lukashenko eventually backtracked.

Minsk previously spoke “about diverting freight to others ports, then there was a correction that [only] if Russia offers the same conditions and so on”, Linkevičius told LRT.

“Therefore, I think we should wait a bit to see what it means, whether [it means] closing the borders to freight, or to people, or to something else entirely,” he added.

Lukashenko claiming he is deploying troops to the border is “a reaction by a deranged person”, said Linkevičius.

Belarus has seen continuous protests after Lukashenko claimed he had won the August 9 presidential election.

Lukashenko has previously accused NATO of “stirring” in Lithuania and Poland. Vilnius officials dismissed the statements as an attempt to divert attention from the brutal repressions against protesters and activists.