The recent surge in the number of people illegally crossing the border from Belarus into Lithuania is not a migrant crisis but rather a form of hybrid warfare which is a peril for Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and the entire EU, as well as NATO, President Kersti Kaljulaid says.
"The coordinated influx of people over the Lithuanian border in the last few weeks is no refugee crisis," the president said Friday.
"This isn't a migration crisis and this isn't solely Lithuania's problem. This is clearly a hybrid crisis which can develop in a danger to all three Baltic States and also to the whole of NATO and the EU," the president continued, according to a press release from her office.
"We cannot therefore underestimate this danger to ourselves. Our next steps and those of our partners and the other Baltic states must be based on this," Kaljulaid, who met Friday morning with defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) and interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center).
Laanet, along with his Lithuanian and Latvian counterparts, Arvydas Anušauskas and Artis Pabriks, has referred to the recent influx as hybrid warfare several times, in the wake of deteriorating relations between Minsk and the west, since the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko to a sixth term as president, almost a year ago.
According to a slot on ETV's news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Thursday evening, many of the migrants originally came from middle eastern countries including Iraq, and sub-Saharan African nations, such as Cameroon.
The president also noted the impending large-scale Russian Federation military Exercise Zapad, which also involve Belarusian troops (Zapad being the Russian word for "west").
"At present, it is still hard to assess whether the two operations are related or not, but this will certainly exacerbate things, so we must monitor the situation very closely with the entire EU and NATO, and respond adequately," the president went on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte