Lithuania monitoring Wagner presence, not closing Belarus border

Lithuania monitoring Wagner presence, not closing Belarus border

Vilnius already took measures to strengthen protection at border with Belarus, Russia's Kaliningrad region, says Deputy Interior Minister Abramavicius

By Murat Temizer

WARSAW (AA) – Lithuania is monitoring the Wagner mercenary presence at its border with Belarus, but has not taken a decision on closing the border, the country's deputy interior minister said Friday.

"According to our evaluation, the current situation does not require closing the Belarusian border," Arnoldas Abramavicius told Anadolu Agency.

He added that Lithuania is coordinating its future moves with Poland and Latvia.

"In case of escalation, we may think of taking joint measures to protect our state borders, which are also the European Union's outer borders," he said.

Abramavicius said his country already took measures to strengthen protection at the border with Belarus and Russia's Kaliningrad region, via surveillance systems and anti-drone technologies.

- Poland warns against Wagner

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said in mid-July that the Russian paramilitary group may be used to increase migratory pressure at the Belarus-Poland border.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki reiterated this, saying: "Wagner mercenaries will probably disguise themselves as Belarusian border guards. They will destabilize Poland by helping irregular migrants get into Polish territory, or else impersonate immigrants illegally crossing the border."

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko denied allegations that Wagner mercenaries were deployed in an area near the Suwalki Gap, which also borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

"Those men are around the town of Asipovichy in the center of Belarus and are not moving anywhere," he said.

- Wagner mutiny in Russia

The head of the Wagner group, Evgeny Prigozhin in June accused the Russian Defense Ministry of attacking the group’s fighters. He declared a “March of Justice” and set off toward Moscow.

The Russian Federal Security Service designated the group’s action “an armed rebellion” and opened a criminal case against Prigozhin, while President Vladimir Putin called the mercenary's uprising an act of “treason.”

After the attempted rebellion, Prigozhin turned back “to avoid bloodshed,” and Wagner was moved to Belarus, following an agreement with Putin that was negotiated through Lukashenko, who promised to keep Wagner in central Belarus.

* Writing by Nur Asena Erturk in Ankara

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