Latvia has announced plans to close one of its border crossings with Belarus following accusations that the Russian ally is using illegal migrants as a “hybrid threat” to the security of eastern Europe.
Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina suggested Belarus was “engaging more and more” with the weaponization of migrants to stoke tensions and create unrest.
The 50 officers that have been working at the border station will be deployed to guard the actual border, according to local officials.
Latvia’s border guard chief described the unfolding situation as “the most tense situation since 2021”.
Tensions have risen and borders have been reinforced as Belarus conducted military drills near its borders with the Baltic states, including with Wagner Group mercenaries.
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Latvia, Poland and Lithuania, all NATO and EU members, share a border with Belarus. Since the Wagner Group’s relocation to the vassal state of Russia, tensions with its neighbouring countries have increased exponentially.
“Border tensions are increasing, and Belarus is engaging more and more in such a hybrid threat that we have an increasing number of illegal travellers,” Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina said.
Some western commentators have suggested Belarus is willfully allowing migrants to flock to the borders at a time when millions of Ukrainians have already fled to these neighbouring countries.
The tensions highlight a difficult situation in which countries such as Poland, led by a far-right wing political party, Law and Justice, appear reluctant to accept migrants from the BAME community.
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The State Border Committee of Belarus claims that there was no official notification from Latvia about the closure of the border checkpoint Silene.
The checkpoint Urbany, from the Belarusian side, is continuing its work, according to local officials.
Reports that makeshift Wagner Group camps in the region were shutting down have also been refuted as false.
Satellite images have shown that while some tents appear to have been taken down, some still remain.
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