Belarus closes borders with Poland & Lithuania amid political turmoil, accusing both countries of interfering in its affairs
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has announced the decision to shut the country’s borders with Poland and Lithuania. He says the neighboring states are stroking protests in the country, and openly backing the opposition.
Minsk will also “reinforce” its southern border with Ukraine, a country it has maintained generally good relations with over the years, even supporting Kiev in its dispute with Russia over Crimea, in 2014.
We are forced to withdraw the troops from the streets, put half of the army on high alert and close the state border from the west, primarily with Lithuania and Poland. We are forced to reinforce the state border, unfortunately, with our brotherly Ukraine.
As of late Thursday, however, the Lithuania-Belarus border remained open, the Baltic nation’s interior ministry has said, adding that it did not receive any official notification about the closure from Minsk.
Both Poland and Lithuania, as well as other foreign states, have been repeatedly accused by Minsk of fueling the protests that have gripped the country over the past month. The unrest was sparked by August 9 presidential elections, when the long-term incumbent Lukashenko officially secured a win, with over 80 percent of the vote. The country’s opposition, backed by foreign players including the EU and the US, rejected the official results as grossly falsified and called for street protests.
Lithuania has been particularity hostile towards Minsk lately, as it took in the exiled opposition figure and former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskya, who claims to have won the contested elections. Last week, the Lithuanian parliament even recognized her as the “elected leader” of the Belarusian people, while branding Lukashenko an “illegitimate” president. This prove provoked a very angry reaction in Minsk.