At midnight from Thursday to Friday, the Šumsk and Tverčias border points with Belarus were closed in Lithuania. “At 12 o’clock at night, the border checkpoints of Šumsk and Tverčias are officially closed, the gates between the border points of Lithuania and Belarus are closed, and a barbed wire is established,” Lina Laurinaitytė-Grigienė, a representative of the State Border Guard Service (VSAT), confirmed to BNS on Friday night.
On the last working day of both border posts, the flow of cars crossing the border was minimal, she said.
In the near future, blocks will be brought to the closed points, and a concertina will be installed.
Lithuanian politicians explained this decision as a reaction to possible threats due to the presence of “Wagner” in Belarus, although it was approved by the Commission for the Development of Border Control Points in May – more than a month before the leader of the mercenary group Yevgenijs Prigozhin tried to overthrow the Russian military leadership.
Minister of the Interior Agnė Bilotaitė, who visited the Tverecius checkpoint on Thursday, already claimed that the checkpoints are being closed in order to solve the problem of smuggling, and the Government’s steps were accelerated by the “additional factor” of Russian mercenaries.
Officials say that after temporarily suspending the operation of these two checkpoints, the situation regarding the queues of vehicles and cargo transportation will not fundamentally change, because only light transport was going through the Šumsk checkpoint, and light transport and empty cargo vehicles were passing through the Tverech checkpoint.
After closing the mentioned two, four border points with Belarus remain in operation: Medininkai, Lavoriškii, Raigard and Šalčininkai. The traffic flow will be directed to the largest and technically equipped Medininkai border control point, which is being reconstructed and has an X-ray control system. It was not present at Tverčius and Šumsk points.
According to the data of Lithuania and Poland, there are between 4 and 4.5 thousand in Belarus. “Wagner” mercenaries, some of them are close to the borders of Lithuania and Poland.
A. Bilotaitė has confirmed that the Baltic countries and Poland are talking about a “regional solution” by completely closing the borders in Belarus, and the final details of such a mechanism will be coordinated this month in Warsaw.
Belarus has been applying a visa-free regime to citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland since last spring, and according to Minsk, more than 400 trips of Lithuanian citizens have been registered in the authoritarian neighbor since then.
Lithuanian officials warn that the Belarusian service is trying to recruit some of those leaving, using blackmail and psychological pressure.