VILNIUS (Reuters) -The Lithuanian government said on Wednesday it had decided to close two of the country’s six border crossing points with Belarus due to “geopolitical circumstances”, weeks after Russian Wagner Group mercenaries took refuge in the country.
The government did not spell out the circumstances nor threats in its reasoning for closing from Friday the two rural crossing points, which were not used by commercial vehicles.
Over the previous few weeks Lithuanian officials have discouraged its citizens from travelling to Belarus, a close Russian ally, setting up signs at the borders saying: “Do not risk your safety – do not travel to Belarus. You may fail to come back”.
Neighbouring Poland has closed all but one border crossing point with Belarus this year following the imprisonment of a journalist of Polish origin and expulsions of Polish diplomats.
Latvia, the third EU country bordering Belarus, has two operational crossings.
Latvia’s defence minister ordered the army to help guard the border on Tuesday, after nearly 100 attempts by illegal immigrants to cross from Belarus in 24 hours.
Poland announced plans last week to move 10,000 additional troops to the Belarus border to support existing guards.
In 2021, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania faced an immigration crisis when thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, began crossing from Belarus. They eventually resorted to pushing them back, a policy that is still in place.
The migrants keep appearing at the borders, in significantly smaller numbers.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas, editing by Terje Solsvik and Angus MacSwan)