November 13 – November 19, 2023
Security issues

The issue of closing borders with Belarus and Russia is becoming a regional concern

The situation got worse
The issue of closing borders with Belarus and Russia is becoming a regional concern
Фото: LRT

Finland has now joined discussions with the Baltic countries and Poland regarding the potential closure of borders with Belarus and Russia. While the Belarusian regime continues to exert pressure on Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, Russia is opening up a new migration front against Estonia and Finland. Currently, those involved in the discussions are contemplating a gradual increase in restrictions on specific sections of the border. However, more drastic measures, such as blockades of the entire Belarusian-Russian border from Finland to Poland, are not out of the question.

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonyte mentioned that the Lithuanian government currently has no plans to close additional border crossings with Belarus. Nevertheless, Vilnius has not completely ruled out this idea. Mindaugas Linge, the head of the Lithuanian Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance, has suggested evaluating the possibility of closing certain checkpoints to combat smuggling. Additionally, there is a proposal to consider providing additional funding to checkpoints where control is deemed insufficient. Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite confirmed that the committee is suggesting the closure of the Lavoriškės and Raigardas checkpoints, and this proposal will be under consideration.

Earlier, Lithuania had already closed the Šumskas and Tverečius checkpoints, and before that, the Stasilai railway crossing.

In the near future, the Baltic countries, Poland, and Finland will conduct regional consultations on the operation of borders with Belarus. If these countries identify threats to national security at the borders, the Ministries of Internal Affairs have agreed to collaborate and provide a joint response. The agenda for the next regional consultations, scheduled for November 20, includes the situation on the border of Finland and Estonia with Russia.

As a response, Finland has decided to close four checkpoints on the border with Russia from November 18 due to the arrival of migrants without a complete set of documents, allowed by the Russian side. Most of these arrivals are citizens of third countries, including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and Somalia. One asylum seeker informed Finnish border guards that Russian police assisted him in reaching the border.

Estonia has increased control at the Narva checkpoint, where 14 migrants from Russia also arrived. Estonian border guards have placed so-called “dragon teeth” in the middle of the bridge over the Narva River, preparing for a potential complete closure of the checkpoint if the government decides to do so.

At the regional level, a system of indicators has been developed to guide decisions on border operations and potential response measures. These measures can range from restricting specific traffic flows and limiting operating hours to closing specific points or the entire border.

Meanwhile, illegal migrants using the Belarusian corridor continue to escalate the situation on the border with Poland. Groups of 70 to 110 people engage in confrontations with Polish patrols, using burning branches and stones. During one such incident on November 13, an official car of Polish border guards was damaged, and its windshield was shattered.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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