Minsk is stepping up efforts to recruit and infiltrate its agents and potential provocateurs into the circles of opposition politicians and public organisations that have taken refuge in Lithuania, the country's intelligence says.
The State Security Department (VSD) reported on Thursday that the Belarusian government was collecting information about Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader based in Vilnius, and people in her team.
15min.lt was first to report about the intelligence agency's warnings on Thursday.
According to the VSD, the efforts to spy on Belarusian organisations in Lithuania intensified when Minsk officials started sending irregular migrants to the EU border.
On October 17, Belarus' authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko summoned top KGB officials and publicly urged them “to increase the effectiveness of foreign intelligence”, the VSD said. Lukashenko urged the KGB to strengthen its offensive power and the capacity of agent-based intelligence as well as “other methods and forms”.
“As an increasing number of Belarusians apply for humanitarian visas or political asylum, Lithuanian intelligence has warned that the Belarusian KGB may try to recruit some refugees or infiltrate its agents among them,” the VSD said.
“The aim is to collect information about Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who currently resides in Lithuania, and her circle, as well as Belarusian public organisations and their members, to help identify their potential vulnerabilities and to try to discredit them and influence their actions, decisions and statements,” it said.
In April 2021, Lithuania blacklisted Ilya Begun, a Belarusian man who had entered the country through the so-called humanitarian corridor, on a humanitarian visa obtained through the mediation of an authoritative human rights organisation, the VSD noted.
According to the agency, Begun hastily left Lithuania for Belarus in early 2021, presumably after completing an assignment. He even left behind some of his personal documents. Shortly afterwards, some Belarusian organisations based in Vilnius reported that data had been stolen from their computers.
As soon as he arrived in Belarus, Begun took part in a programme on the government-aligned TV channel ONT, where he said that he was disappointed with the opposition in exile and that he had realised that it was working against the state.
He later joined the so-called Round Table of Democratic Forces, which claims to be an opposition organisation, but is working with the regime's approval.
15min.lt reported it had collected information pointing to a similar situation.
Sources have told the website that Andrei Abramenko, a former Belarusian law enforcement officer, approached them while still in Belarus and asked them to help him enter Lithuania and apply for asylum.
Abramenko allegedly crossed into Lithuania in Varėna District and then disappeared. A few weeks later, the man's account of migrant smuggling across the border appeared on YouTube, along with allegedly secretly recorded conversations with Lithuanian officials.
The intelligence agency warned Belarusian refugees against being recruited by the Minsk regime and getting involved in criminal activities in Lithuania.