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Latvia to step up patrols on Belarusian border

The State Border Guard has requested that the Ministry of Defense provide 50 national guardsmen for more intensive surveillance of the border with Belarus, Latvian Television reported July 6.

In an interview on Latvian Radio, Chief of Border Guard Guntis Pujāts said that the situation on the border with Belarus is calm at the moment, but has an enhanced presence of guards since the end of May. So far three incidents have been recorded in which two offenders were arrested, while one man has asked for asylum.

Belarus' self-declared ruler Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to flood the European Union with illegal migrants from states in the Middle East and Central Asia, and has reportedly been taking active measures to do so.

Risks and tensions are rising, said Pujāts, so he has therefore turned to the Commander of the National Armed Forces and the Minister for Defense to deploy national guardsmen to provide support for more intensive border surveillance, as well as to make more resources available for dealing with offenders. That goal requires about 50 additional employees to double the patrolling effort.

The Minister for Defense Artis Pabriks said that the armed forces were already under pressure with various additional duties, but that the required approximately 50 national guardsmen could be provided.

“As we have not yet upgraded the Latvian-Belarusian border, this means that greater responsibility lies with human resources. In the case at hand, it is patrolling and helping border guards because the border guard lacks human resources,” said Pabriks.

The head of the border guard pointed to the risks of increasing the number of illegal border crossings in Latvia, similar to Lithuania. “We are a neighboring country of Lithuania, and at any time we forecast that the situation in Latvia may also become very tense. Therefore, we are proactive in addressing the cooperation partners in good time, and we do not wait for the problem to set in,” said Pujāts.

An action plan shall be developed in the State Border Guard in case of a significant increase in the number of illegal attempts of border crossing. If the situation becomes similar to Lithuania, which has been specifically targeted by Minsk, an emergency situation could be declared to allow for rapid deployment of resources. Pujāts said that the Latvian-Belarusian border is currently less well equipped than the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.

The situation was discussed by the government on Tuesday behind closed doors.

“We understand that the Belarusian state is contributing greatly to this migration to Lithuania at the moment, and this potential threat is also to the Latvian border, so we must be prepared that more people, migrants from different third countries, may appear here,” Pabriks said.

“We are probably in a better geographical situation right now, because Lithuania and not Latvia is the target country. Our countries are basically used to reach Germany or any other Member State of the European Union. Consequently, our geographical location does not currently contribute to [illegal migration], but we see risks that the situation may change,” Pujāts said.

For the latest developments on the Lithuanian border, we recommend following our colleagues at LRT News in Vilnius.

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