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Lithuania closes two Belarus border crossings

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Lithuania to temporary close two border checkpoints with Belarus on Friday

Starting from August 18th, there will be a temporary suspension of operations at two out of the six border checkpoints between Lithuania and Belarus, specifically the Šumskas and Tverečius border checkpoints. The proposal put forward by the Ministry of Transport and Communications received Government approval earlier today.

Explaining the rationale behind this decision, Ramūnas Dilba, the Chancellor of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, stated: ‘The aim of temporarily halting operations at these checkpoints is to reduce potential threats along the border with Belarus. These checkpoints only allow the passage of light vehicles, Tverečius is also handling traffic of empty freight trucks. All checkpoint staff will be redirected to the largest Medininkai border checkpoint. Consequently, the situation concerning vehicle queues and freight transport is expected to remain mostly unaffected.’

According to the Minister of the Interior, Agnė Bilotaitė, the closure of these two border checkpoints is a response to the relocation of the Wagner group to Belarus.

‘This decision is one of the preventive measures aimed at managing emerging threats to national security and possible provocations at the border. It will enable border officers to redistribute their capacities at the border with Belarus and pay even larger attention to the protection of the state border’, said Minister Bilotaitė.

The traffic from these checkpoints will be rerouted to the Medininkai border checkpoint close to Šumskas. This checkpoint is currently undergoing its final phase of reconstruction. Notably, it stands out as both the largest and technologically advanced, featuring an X-ray inspection system, a feature absent at both the Tverečius and Šumskas checkpoints. This enhancement is expected to play a significant role in curbing smuggling activities as well.

There are other three border checkpoints operating on the border with Belarus: Lavoriškės, Raigardas and Šalčininkai, which account for a significant share of freight traffic.

The decision of the Lithuanian government to close the Šumskas/Losha and Tverečius/Vidzy road checkpoints on the border with Belarus on 18 August is another nonconstructive and unfriendly move, BelTA learned from official representative of the State Border Committee Anton Bychkovsky.

“The Lithuanian side cited a security threat as a reason for the closure, including the presence of PMC Wagner on the territory of Belarus. At the same time, Lithuania’s official position disagrees with the true reasons for such a decision,” Anton Bychkovsky said.

In reality, the Lithuanian authorities use any pretext to hamper the movement of goods and to make it more difficult for Lithuanian travelers to get to Belarus using the visa waiver, the official said.

The closure of checkpoints will mean extended waiting times at other checkpoints. The increased workload on other border crossings will cause unnecessary delays in border clearance, hence longer queues.

“By taking such decisions, the Lithuanian side deliberately creates artificial barriers on the border pursuing political goals,” Anton Bychkovsky stressed.

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