Border guard chief: Belarus has tried to arm border crossers

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Latvian border guards have reported cases where Belarusian authorities have offered firearms to illegal immigrants that were planning to cross the Belarus-Latvia border, Guntis Pujāts, Chief of the State Border Guard, told the LETA newswire June 9.

The Belarusian regime also attempted to instruct the immigrants in how to tackle Latvian border guards if they prevented them from crossing the border, Pujāts said.

The immigrants, however, refused to use the weapons, and so far there have been no incidents involving the use of firearms against Latvian border guards.

Such incidents were recorded at the end of last year, but no new incidents have been reported in recent months.

"Of course, such incidents increase the risks, security risks, and can escalate to shootouts," Pujāts said.

Pujāts also mentioned previous reports that there had been cases of Belarusian officers on the other side of the border being armed with weapons like machine guns and sniper rifles, which is not typical everyday equipment for border guards.

Pujāts' earlier prediction that the influx of migrants will increase with the approach of summer has also proved correct, but with the NATO summit in Vilnius nearing, there are risks of even more pressure. The illegal immigrants are likely to be directed "predominantly to Lithuania, but pressure may increase on the region as a whole. This means not only immigrants, but also other types of attacks against Lithuania, such as cyber-attacks," Pujāts warned.

On Thursday, June 8, 32 persons were prevented from illegally entering Latvia from Belarus, LETA was told by the State Border Guard.

So far this year, 3,793 persons have been prevented from crossing into Latvia from Belarus and 187 persons have been allowed into Latvia on humanitarian grounds.

Last year, Latvian border guards prevented 5,286 attempts to illegally enter Latvia from Belarus, and 217 people were permitted to cross the border on humanitarian grounds.

The state of emergency was first declared in the eastern Latvian municipalities of Ludza and Kraslava as well as Daugavpils City on August 10, 2021. It was later repeatedly extended, with the latest extension ending August 10, 2023.

Latvian authorities consider attempts by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's regime to traffic third-country nationals across Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish borders to be methods of hybrid warfare.

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