Lithuania prepares for a new Belarusian hybrid attack: this time, we know what to expect

Lithuanian-Belarusian border. Photo Epso-G

Thousands of illegal migrants could once again flood into Lithuania. According to Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė, the Belarusian regime will soon launch direct flights from Iran and Iraq to Minsk. The authorities believe the threat is real, but they have already done the necessary homework, Šarūnas Dvareckas is writing at the news portal.

The concertina has been built, and the latest and most modern surveillance systems have been installed on the border. And now, a new crisis management unit has been brought in to help the authorities. According to the Cabinet Office, officials working in the unit will gather information on potential threats and will immediately inform the responsible ministries of potential threats.

Lithuania, which has not seen illegal migrants for a long time, could see them again. The Interior Minister warns that the Minsk regime will soon start direct flights from the Middle East.

“We have information both from the European Union institutions and from our services that flights from both Iran and Iraq may resume,” said Ms Bilotaitė.

“Yes, we do. Let’s not rule out that scenario because it could indeed be that Lukashenko will reopen new old routes for migration. He will bring tourists to his country, who will be pushed into our country by migrants,” said Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Defence.

The Government Office explains that it is no longer enough to monitor Belarusian airports in anticipation of a new wave of migrants.

“Last week, 22 people. That’s really small compared to when there were hundreds. But they have all successfully arrived in Moscow. They then come to Belarus and cross our border. Where they arrive in Minsk or Moscow is only a matter of time,” said Vilmantas Vitkauskas, Deputy Chancellor of the Government.

Bilotaitė reassures that a situation where migrants flooded Lithuania unprepared will not happen again. We now have a concertina fence and modern surveillance systems. However, the authorities admit that many of the challenges at the height of the migrant crisis were not caused by a lack of modern systems but by simple miscommunication between institutions.

“That was the thinking. After all, it is a matter for the Ministry of the Interior. Well, the border guards and the Ministry. So then you realise that if you accommodate a migrant, then it is the Ministry of Health’s business,” says Kasčiūnas.

A new Crisis Management Centre unit will now help solve the problems faster. According to the Chancellor, the Centre will be open 24 hours daily. 7 days a week. And its task is to assess all possible threats.

“Those crisis management situations have shown us that we need real-time data in order to be able to assess one situation or another quickly,” says the Chancellor of the Government, Giedrė Balčytytė.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, the first flight from Iraq to Minsk was also expected these days. The Crisis Management Centre says it constantly monitors this information on flights from Iraq.

“The flight you are referring to, we were expecting it yesterday. And it did not happen. And in this case, we can look at the allocation of capacity to see whether we need to prepare for something or not,” Vitkauskas said.

The Centre employs specialists from four different institutions, from the police to the customs department. The Chancellery explains that the Centre uses a variety of sources to check possible threats to Lithuania. Starting with the Astravas nuclear power plant, it examines the radiation background near Lithuania. It also monitors various military exercises near our border.

To the migrant crisis: the Centre checks airport schedules and cross-border agreements on new flights. And if it turns out to be true, it immediately informs the responsible authorities.

“There are indicators that a new crisis is emerging. It sends a signal to the government. The Prime Minister convenes a national security commission. And according to the nature of the crisis, it decides which Ministry will lead the crisis management process. Which ministries are assisting,” Kasčiūnas explains.

At the height of the migrant crisis, Lithuania tried to stop flights from Iraq to Minsk. With the help of the European Union, those flights from Iraq have been significantly reduced. But the Minister says it is almost impossible to do the same now, for example, with Iran.

“With Iran, the European Commission has less leverage. There are no signed agreements on the return of migrants. So it would be a challenge if new flows from Iran were to start,” says Ms Bilotaitė.

Since 2021, more than four thousand migrants have entered Lithuania illegally. But most migrants have left Lithuania since the end of movement restrictions.

“We have already worked on migration. Nothing will scare us away, believe me,” Kasčiūnas says.

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