Riga, Latvia, Aug 18 (EFE).- Lithuania sealed its border with Belarus on Friday as a response to the reported presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner private militia within the neighboring country.
This closure follows the Lithuanian government’s announcement on Wednesday, stating that it would be closing two rural crossing points starting from Friday.
However, Lithuanian officials did not explicitly mention the presence of Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries within Belarusian territory as the reason for the closure.
The government has attributed the decision to the evolving geopolitical situation, national security threats, and smuggling concerns.
Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, in an interview with the Lithuanian public broadcaster (LRT), confirmed the closure of all border points with Belarus, with exceptions for “some humanitarian or diplomatic crossings.”
“The border is now completely closed,” Bilotaite said.
She did not rule out the possibility of closing the border crossings between Lithuania and Russia.
The minister revealed that top security officials convened a meeting with the State Border Guard Service to “not only the closure of the border with Belarus, but also other options, like the closure of the border with Russia.”
Bilotaite emphasized that Lithuania constantly faces threats from its neighboring region but reassured that her country is ready to address these challenges.
“We are a NATO (member) and we have heavily invested on our defenses. Our people must feel assured that have support,” she said. “Our security remains a top priority.”
Saulius Nekrasevicius, commander of the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), reported no incidents at the checkpoints following the border checkpoint closures.
Lithuania’s border closure aligns with reports this week that the Baltic countries and Poland are discussing complete closure of borders with Belarus.
The governments of these nations will finalize the details during a meeting in Warsaw on August 28.
Polish Presdent Andrzej Duda and Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkevics conveyed after their Wednesday meeting in Poland that security and the situation at the Belarus border were critically important. EFE