Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE) says that Estonia is ready for any potential efforts by the remnants of the now leaderless Wagner Group of mercenaries, many of whom are still located in Belarus, which borders with the EU.
However, if the slightest incident of provocation should occur on or near the Belarisuain border with Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, all three countries are ready to close their borders from the inside, an action which Estonia would stand firmly alongside.
Speaking Monday Interior Minister Lauri Läänemets (SDE), said: "We are ready for this eventuality, we have police forces and equipment, the special equipment, to deal with this."
"We are ready to act. Indeed, a lot has been said about Belarus and it is high time to react together," Läänemets went on, speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera."
Ministers of Interior of , , & met today in #Warsaw to reaffirm that ensuring #security at the external border of the #EU with Russia & Belarus is one of the top priorities. , , & are standing jointly against attempts to destabilize the situation in region. pic.twitter.com/YBoKd6dFGC— Siseministeerium/MoI (@sisemin) August 28, 2023
Läänemets was makein his remarks in the context of a meeting Monday in Warsaw, attended by his Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian opposite numbers.
The ministers discussed Belarus and its border with the EU, and any potential attempts by that country or by the Russian Federation to destabilize the situation in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
While unlike Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, Estonia does not border with Belarus, Läänemets said the country is nonetheless ready to help its Baltic states neighbors, and Poland, in every way, should the need arise for them to close off their border with Belarus.
The ministers warned Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko that were Belarus to carry out activity near his country's border with the EU, activity which could lead to uncertainty, the reaction of Poland and the Baltic states would follow not in days, but rather in hours.
Poland's interior minister, Mariusz Kaminski, noted that the fact that the Wagner Group is a spent force in the aftermath of its leader's apparent death after a plane he was flying in was shot down last week does not really change the sitiation on the ground in Belarus – many unsavory individuals who were members of the group are still at large, he said.
At the same time, closing the border should not be taken too lightly as a decision, the minsiters added, as it would be needed to find a way for Belarusian opposition figures to escape from the country in that case
Lithuania's interior minister, Agne Bilotaite, said at the meeting that her country was completely prepared for an eventuality in closing the border – Vilnius lies just over 30km from that border, while the most well-known Belarusian opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has been in exile in Lithuania since 2020.
Those members of the Wagner Group who are still in border areas should be removed from these zones, the ministers said, while a letter demanding this happen was under preparation earlier and will be signed by the four ministers -
In late summer 2021, large numbers of migrants who had come from Iraq and other Middle- and Near-Eastern and also African countries were transported to the Belarusian border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, often forcibly pushed towards and in some cases over the border, acts which were seen as efforts to wreak havoc on the EU and NATO's eastern flank.
Many of them ended up having to camp in the border strip between Belarus and the EU.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Arni Alandi.