The State Border Guard Service (VSAT) reported on Tuesday about a photo that has been circulating on some channels of the social network Telegram, which allegedly shows mercenaries of the Wagner group crossing the border into Lithuania and publicly demonstrating it. Although the photo is fake, the situation in Lithuania’s neighbourhood is very tense, Agnė Liubertaitė is writing at the lrytas.lt news portal.
Latvia has already withdrawn its border guards from their holidays due to the influx of migrants from Belarus crossing the border illegally, and the situation is no better in Poland, where the number of migrants is counted in the hundreds per day.
For its part, the SBGS stressed to the portal lrytas.lt that there are currently no alarming changes at the Lithuanian border, and the number of illegal migrants turned away per day remains similar to what it has been so far.
According to the Service, the situation in the neighbouring countries could also be due to the still insufficient protection of the border with Belarus.
It may not be possible to apprehend all irregular migrants
As previously reported, Latvian border guards, who are currently facing an extremely high number of irregular migrants crossing the border, have been forced to suspend their holidays, other Border Guard Service staff are having their planned annual leave cancelled, and the army has been called in to help.
Guntis Pujatas, head of the Latvian Border Guard, said that some offenders may not be apprehended with the country’s resources.
“We have a very high number of offenders. Two days ago, there were 96, and today there are 76. There is a risk that, with our resources, we will not be able to deter some of the offenders. That is why I have announced the mobilisation of additional Border Guard forces.
Additional border guards are being deployed from other sections – from all over Latvia, so to speak – to help officers trying to overcome the crisis. I have also appealed to the National Armed Forces and the National Police for additional support. Their response was positive”, said Mr Pujatas.
According to the Border Guard Service, Belarusian officials are increasingly assisting illegal migrants; urgent action is also needed on this aspect.
The number has already exceeded one hundred every day
Polish border guards are also busy, with the number of people attempting to cross the border illegally recently surpassing one hundred every day. On Tuesday, 109 people reportedly tried to enter Poland illegally from Belarus, compared to 159 on Sunday.
On Wednesday, it was reported that two Ukrainians were arrested in the vicinity of the village of Dubyche Cerkevne in the Podlaskie Voivodeship for helping illegal migrants. They were transporting seven Syrians and two Iraqis in two cars.
Since the beginning of the year, Polish officials have detained 505 people on suspicion of helping migrants cross the border illegally, and overall this year, the Polish Border Guard Service has already recorded more than 19,000 attempts to cross the country’s border with Belarus illegally.
Just over a week ago, Poland also reported that two Belarusian helicopters violated its airspace. The country also announced that it had detained a Belarusian man suspected of involvement in a “Russian spy network”.
The situation in Lithuania remains unchanged
According to Lina Laurinaitytė-Grigienė, Head of the Communication Department of the VSAT, the service is currently not observing any changes on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, and the situation remains stable.
“The number of irregular migrants turned away per day remains similar, ranging from 0 to 3 persons per day over the last five days. There are also no data on the resumption of flights to the Republic of Belarus from the countries of origin of irregular migrants,” the representative of the VSAT informed.
Laurinaitytė-Grigienė noted that Lithuania’s external borders are fully protected by a physical barrier and are monitored by surveillance systems, which is why, according to her, we are one of the most modern and advanced EU countries in terms of protection of its external borders.
“The Latvian and Polish borders with the Republic of Belarus are not fully secured by a physical barrier, which is probably why these neighbouring countries face higher flows of illegal migration,” explained the Head of the Communication Division of the VSAT.
However, the portal lrytas.lt has already reported on a photo that was circulated in social networks on Tuesday, claiming that mercenaries of the Wagner group had crossed the Lithuanian border and ended up on our side of the border.
The fake photo shows a person in military clothing holding a Wagner emblem next to the poles separating the Lithuanian and Belarusian borders.
According to Ms Laurinaitytė-Grigienė, this is one of the information warfare measures carried out by regimes that are unfriendly to Lithuania, and the Service urges people to be very critical of any provocation.
It should be noted that this is a photo of the border area, which was made public in 2019 and was used.
“This one photo appeared on some Telegram channels – an obvious fake, a photo montage. We consider this to be one of the tools of information warfare.
We call on Lithuanian citizens not to be provoked and to evaluate the information critically”, said the representative of the VSAT.
Last week, VSAT Commander General Rustam Liubaev said the possibility of provocations at the border with Belarus and the Russian Federation is high, but no additional activity or provocations are currently visible.
However, according to the Head of the SBGS, border protection must be strengthened.
“By the way, together with the Ministry of the Interior, we are currently discussing the possibility of increasing our capacity at the border with Belarus, i.e. to, deploy additional SBGS personnel. The relevant decisions have been taken, and we plan to increase our contingent at the border with Belarus shortly,” Liubajevas noted.
“At the moment, the VSAT is working in a heightened vigilance mode, taking into account the current emergency situation due to the massive influx of foreigners,” Laurinaitytė-Grigienė said on Wednesday.
The Minister also gave an explanation
As Latvia reinforces its forces on the border with Belarus, Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė said that Lithuanian border guards have already deployed troops and representatives of other services to protect the border. She said that Riga was likely to have taken decisive action in response to the increased number of irregular migrants trying to enter the country in recent days.
“The situation is such that there has been a significant increase in the number of irregular migrants – it has certainly increased, and around 100 irregular migrants have been trying to cross the border daily. Action has been taken, and the army has been deployed. It was not involved before. We have already done these new steps – we have certainly raised our vigilance,” Bilotaitė told journalists on Wednesday before the government meeting.
“We are ready, and now, apparently, our neighbours are taking certain steps that have already been done in our country,” she reiterated.
The politician assured that the Lithuanian institutions and political leadership are constantly cooperating with their counterparts in Latvia and Poland in case of coordinated regional solutions to the provocations on the Belarusian border.
So far, she said, neither Riga nor Warsaw has asked Lithuania for help. However, the Minister noted that the countries would cooperate and help each other if needed. “We have agreed that we are genuinely in solidarity. If our neighbours need help, we are ready to aid them if something happens.
In the same way, our neighbours are ready to come to our aid if we need it. We are in constant contact with each other, with the political level, and with our officials,” said Ms Bilotaitė.