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1 Mar, 2024 16:47

EU state closes border-crossing loophole on Belarus-Russia route

Having too many entry points compromises national security, Lithuania has claimed
EU state closes border-crossing loophole on Belarus-Russia route

Train passengers transiting between Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad can no longer embark or disembark in Lithuania, under new border rules that took effect on Friday. 

The restriction applies to two checkpoints located in Kybartai, a town on the border with Kaliningrad in the west of Lithuania, and at the Kena station in the town of Kalveliai, close to the Belarusian border in the east. Previously, people with citizenship or a residency permit in an EU state could cross into the Schengen zone via these routes.

Vilnius announced the restriction last week, at the request of the National Security Commission, with Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite calling it a “timely and necessary” measure to ensure national security. 

The government noted that unlike other EU members that had only one functional border crossing with Belarus, Lithuania had four. It became necessary to reduce the flow of people and goods, the statement added.

Eastern EU states have been steadily limiting cross-border traffic with Russia and Belarus since the start of the Ukraine conflict. The policy has been justified by security concerns, but many officials have openly said they want to punish citizens of Russia and Belarus for the actions of their governments.

The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) – a Washington-based think tank known to be funded by the US government, NATO, and Western arms makers – warned in January that the “threat of Russian agents or military personnel using the railroad as a backdoor to the West should not be underestimated,” referring to the two checkpoints in Lithuania.

”Inaction over the misuse of the line threatens to undermine attempts to strengthen Lithuania’s security, and may even put Lithuania and NATO in a position where they will have to respond to a hybrid attack,” the pressure group claimed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the move last week, telling the Izvestia newspaper that in an “anti-Russia rush, the Lithuanians are giving no thought to the interests of their own citizens. “

Vilnius has urged Lithuanian citizens to avoid all travel to Russia and Belarus, and called on those already in those countries to return.