On Monday, Lithuanian border guards arrested nine Iraqi asylum seekers who crossed the border from Belarus. Last week, border guards arrested 52 people, 160 migrants, mostly Iraqis, crossed the border from Belarus to Lithuania, which is three times more than in the whole of 2020.
– It is clear that there is a form of hybrid warfare being waged against Lithuania, and illegal refugee flows are one of the meanssaid the Minister of the Interior Agni Pilotit.
Lithuania has been at the center of criticism from the Belarusian authorities after their brutal suppression of demonstrations against the regime in the summer, autumn and winter.
The groups of illegal immigrants traveling to Lithuania are not random. Belottit says there are flights from Baghdad and Istanbul to Minsk.
Lithuania claims that Belarusian border guards cover up refugee traces, and it may also be the case that the authorities are actively helping refugees. She added that the Lithuanian defense is on standby.
The two countries share a border of 680 kilometers, and the Lithuanian capital Vilnius has long been a center for Belarusian exiles. Among other things, opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was allowed to establish herself in Lithuania when she was forced to flee after last year’s presidential election. There are also a number of non-governmental organizations and universities banned by President Alexander Lukashenko in Vilnius.
Tensions between the two countries have risen in recent weeks, and a number of diplomats have been expelled as a result of Belarus forcing a Vilnius-bound plane to land so they can arrest activist Roman Protasevic.
Lukashenko earlier warned that Belarus might give up its border controls to quell recent EU sanctions.
– We stopped immigrants and drugs. Now you must stop them yourself, he said in a speech on May 26.