Lithuania calls for state of emergency over migrants on Polish border

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Lithuanian-Belarusian border.
Lithuanian-Belarusian border. Source: Erik Peinar

Lithuania's Interior Ministry has proposed declaring a state of emergency following reports of a large number of migrants near the Belarus-Poland border on Monday, national broadcaster LRT reported.

The government will discuss the situation today, Lithuanian interior minister Agne Bilotaite told reporters during a press conference. The proposal would declare an emergency situation in Lithuania's border area, not across the whole country.

"We are following what is happening on the border between Poland and Belarus and, obviously, we can expect similar intrusions and attacks. So our institutions are on maximum alert, our officers and military forces are regrouping," Bilotaite told reporters.

Rustamas Liubajevas, commander of the State Border Guard Service, said additional forces are being deployed to Lithuania's border areas.

"We don't have information about any large groups of irregular migrants near our border," he said, adding that truck drivers returning to Lithuania from Belarus have not seen such groups either.

"If there are attempts to break through and there's a threat to the health or lives of our officers, special measures and weapons can be used under Lithuanian laws," he added.

Since the summer, thousands of migrants, mostly from the middle east, have tried to cross Belarus' borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

EU officials, including Estonians, hold the Minsk regime responsible for facilitating and enabling irregular migration, calling it "hybrid aggression" against the European Union.

Hundreds of migrants are moving towards the Polish-Belarusian border in the Kuznica region on Monday, LRT reported.

Minister of Interior: "This is no longer a hybrid attack"

Estonia's interior minister Kristian Jaani (Center) said the move was no longer a hybrid attack. He said Estonia is doing everything it can to help Poland.

"This is no longer a hybrid attack. Belarus is not even trying to hide its intentions with lies. We are doing everything we can with our Polish colleagues, both bilaterally and at EU level," he wrote.

Later on Monday, Jaani told news portal Delfi he is in contact with ministers in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and Estonia is ready to assist the countries however it can.

While there is currently a 17-member Estonian team in Lithuania, Poland has not yet requested help.

The minister said the government does not see the situation moving to Estonia, as the country is mainly used for transit by migrants and does not share a border with Belarus. He dismissed a question about closing the Latvian border.

Talking about Estonia's preparedness, he said: "We have been preparing for such situations for a long time. From the moment Belarus launched its attacks on Lithuania, we have reviewed our previous crisis plans. I do not want to say anything more about a hybrid attack, what is happening today is an attack."

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Ready to raise issue at UN security council

Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ERR News on Monday it is closely following events in Poland.

Asked if Estonia will raise the topic at the United Nations Security Council - of which Estonia is a non-permanent member - a spokesperson said: "Estonia closely follows developments on the EU's external borders, is in close contact with Poland and stands ready to raise the issue at the Security Council as well."

Estonia has previously raised the situation in Belarus at the UNSC three times and discussed "worrisome developments".

"It has been Estonia's priority to keep the Security Council's and the international community's focus on Belarus," the spokesperson said.

Latvia: EU must speed up work on sanctions, external borders

Commenting on the situation on social media, Latvia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics said the EU needs to respond with "strong support" for Poland.

Rinkevics wrote: "As Lukashenko regime reinforces its hybrid attack on the EU's external borders the EU must respond with strong support to Poland and other affected countries. EU must speed up work on additional sanctions and to co-finance the reinforcement of its external borders."

The European Union has so far refused to fund building walls on its external borders, despite requests from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also encouraged the EU to act.

"[The] EU needs to reinforce its external borders as well as speed up work on sanctions towards [the] BY [Belarus] regime," it wrote on twitter.

Mihkelson: The situation is getting "more serious" every day

Chairman of Foreign Affairs Committee of Estonian Parliament Marko Mihkelson (Reform) commented on the situation on the border saying: "Lukashenka's hybrid attack against the West is getting day-by-day more serious."

Editor's note: This article was updated to add a comment from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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