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2021.06.08 14:37

Belarusians in Lithuania move to block border traffic to put pressure on regime

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Benas Gerdžiūnas, LRT.lt2021.06.08 14:37

Belarusian activists in Lithuania have staged a rally on Tuesday, aiming to block traffic heading to and from Belarus via the Medininkai border crossing.

"You say that we are guests, but I think that the Lithuanian government sees us (more) than that,” said Belarusian activist Vitali Aleinik during negotiations between protesters and the police. On Tuesday, the Belarusian actvisits in Lithuania hoped to put pressure on the Belarusian regime to open borders and call for stricter EU sanctions.

Contrary to the tents set up over the weekend, the protest action on Tuesday had not been given permission by the Lithuanian authorities.

“I cannot let you do something that is against the laws of the Lithuanian Republic,” Dainius Daukantas from the Vilnius police told several dozen protesters. “It needs to be done lawfully, not spontaneously.

According to one of the protesters, Yauhen Zaichkin, police and the Lithuanian Border Guard Service (VSAT) that arrived on site said those who would attempt to block the road would be detained and given a fine.

The dual protest action at the Babrouniki–Berastavitsa checkpoint on the Poland–Belarus border and the Medininkai crossing with Lithuania was called by Pavel Latushko, one of the Belarusian opposition leaders currently in Poland.

“We can’t wait for Lukashenko's regime to commit another crime – it’s time to move to action,” Latushko, a former Belarusian diplomat, said last week. He added that if the EU doesn’t impose strict sanctions against the regime, which are currently under discussion by the bloc, they would start blocking the road to the border crossing.

In Medininkai, several dozen activists set up tents metres from the border crossing on June 5, staying overnight and raising flags and posters against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

Although some prominent Belarusian NGOs took part in organizing the protest, those at the border said they had mostly organised themselves using the popular Telegram messaging app, which was instrumental in helping guide protests against Lukashenko that had erupted after the rigged election in August last year.

Earlier in May, the Belarusian regime diverted a Vilnius-bound Ryanair flight to arrest a dissident journalist, Roman Protasevich, an editor at one of the most prominent opposition Telegram channels Nexta.

In response, the European Union has banned the Belarusian state-owned airline Belavia from the bloc’s airspace. The Belarusian regime, meanwhile, severed the possibility for Belarusians to leave the country via the land border crossings. Now, only those holding a permanent residency abroad are allowed to leave Belarus.

Read more: Will flight ban trap Belarusian dissidents in hands of Lukashenko?

Activists plan to continue staying at the protest camp near the border crossing.

“If there will be no sanctions and the borders do not open, we will stage the same action [to block traffic], but this time with permissions, on June 14” to coincide with the NATO summit in Brussels, Aleinik told LRT.lt.

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