Latvia and Lithuania helped deliver drones to Belarus in September

Latvia and Lithuania were responsible for the delivery of surveillance drones to Belarus even in the middle of a brutal assault on civil society by self-proclaimed president Alexander Lukashenko, according to a report in the online publication EU Observer.

15 surveillance drones were provided to the Belarusian authorities under the auspices of an €850,000 project with Latvia's and Lithuania's names attached. They were handed over on September 16, more than a month after rigged presidential elections and the subsequent an ongoing use of force against the population by Lukashenko. 

Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus cross border program

The report quotes Latvian and Lithuanian diplomats expressing the hope that the Belarusian authorities would stick to the rules they have so flagrantly ignored in other areas and use the drones only for the tasks for which they were provided such as disaster assessment rather than to surveil or intimidate demonstrations or opposition individuals. 

"That equipment needs to be used only for the reasons it has been provided", an unnamed Latvian diplomat told EU Observer.

"The State Committee for Forensic Science received 15 new drones this week. The new equipment appeared thanks to the Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus cross-border cooperation program for 2014-2020. It is implemented under the European Neighborhood Instrument, funded by the European Union," notes the website of the Belarusian State Committee of Forensics.

"We have started the implementation of the project "New forensic technologies of crime scene inspection and strengthening of public safety," said the head of the main department of forensic examinations of the central office of the State Committee of Forensics, Colonel Andrei Rashchupkin.

The project budget is 850,091.23 euros of which the European Union finances 765,082.10 euros.

More about the Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus program can be found at the official website of the project, which has offices in Vilnius, Daugavpils and Minsk.

"The European Neighbourhood Instrument Cross-border Cooperation Programme Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus 2014-2020 continues successful partnership of the Latvian, Lithuanian and Belarusian organisations.

"The goal of the Programme is to strengthen relations, raise capacities and share experience among people and organisations from Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus through the implementation of joined actions aimed at increasing the overall quality of life in the border regions," the website says.

The specific project in question concerns Lithuania and Belarus more than Latvia, whose role is limited to that of being a member of the funding mechanism in question.

The Lithuanian Police Forensic Science Centre and Central Office of the State Committee of Forensics of Belarus are the main players and "The main expected result of the activities is increased efficiency of investigation in large areas measured by 8 times reduced time needed for detailed description and measurement of the [border] area," it is stated.

On October 7 EU Observer added this coda to the story, with Lithuania saying it had sent funds for purchase of the drones.

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