EU state could close border with Russia
The Baltic states could close their land borders with Russia and Belarus in response to Moscow’s ongoing offensive in Ukraine, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks has said.
In an interview with Diena newspaper on Tuesday, Pabriks said the prospect of shutting frontiers is “a matter for consideration,” but it should be done only as a joint measure by all three of the former Soviet republics.
“I do not see the possibility that one of the Baltic states could do it alone. But for everyone in general, it is definitely an issue to consider,” the minister said.
Pabriks was echoing a statement by the foreign minister of neighboring Lithuania – a country which borders only the Kaliningrad enclave and, unlike Latvia and Estonia, does not have a common border with Russia’s main territory.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis emphasized on Monday that a decision on border closures is not one that any Baltic country could make on its own. Thus, he argued, a “European or regional solution” is needed.
However, apparently there is no consensus on the matter within the Latvian government. On Monday, Minister of Interior Marija Golubeva expressed doubt that Latvia would be able to fulfill Kiev’s request to close its borders with Russia and Belarus. Many people, including Latvians, are fleeing Ukraine via Russia and Belarus, therefore the closure of borders now “would not be very realistic,” she argued.
“I can’t imagine how we can do that and help these people at the same time,” the interior minister added.
Since the beginning of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have constantly called on their partners to strengthen sanctions on Moscow and take their own measures in this regard.
Lithuania was the first EU country to announce that it had “completely abandoned” Russian gas, and the first to expel a Russian ambassador. Both Lithuania and Latvia announced on Monday that they plan to downgrade their diplomatic relations with Moscow.
Russian officials have been warning the Baltic countries against “unleashing an anti-Russian psychosis” and threatened them with “consequences.”
Russia launched its offensive following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
The West responded to Russia’s attack on Ukraine by imposing hard-hitting sanctions on Moscow. Belarus has also been sanctioned for its alleged support of its neighbor’s actions.