The military plans to establish a new training in southeastern Lithuania in a move that Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said would bolster the country’s “deterrence potential”.
"In terms of state defence, increased presence of the Lithuanian military and allies in the southern region bolsters general deterrence potential, and that is one of the key reasons why this training area is being established and restored in this specific area," Anušauskas said.
The training grounds will be established in Rūdninkai, some 30 kilometres from Lithuania's capital, Vilnius. It currently houses the training area for the Public Security Service (VST) and was previously a drilling site for the Soviet army.
Rūdninkai in Šalčininkai District came into the spotlight last summer after local residents tried to prevent the government from establishing a migrant camp.
The Defence Ministry plans to open the new site in 2024.
"Preparations are not done that quickly, and social., as well as economic, environmental, and financial assessments would go on until autumn next year. Legal matters related to the takeover of land need to be taken care of by 2024," Anušauskas said.
Before any development work begins, a draft resolution granting the project a special status will be put before the Lithuanian parliament.
The area will be developed by taking into account environmental requirements and in cooperation with the local community, the defence minister said.
The authorities in Šalčininkai District have expressed the need to improve local infrastructure, therefore, "those roads surrounding the Rudninkai training area and surrounding territories, they will need to get attention".
"There are no residential properties in this territory, no private land lots, and there are no people living here, only outside the training area. [...] I would like to stress once again that the establishment of the training area does not make these territories closed,” Anušauskas said.