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21 Aug, 2023 17:41

Americans urged to ‘immediately’ leave Belarus

The State Department in Washington has issued an updated travel notice
Americans urged to ‘immediately’ leave Belarus

Any US citizens in Belarus should leave right away, the State Department said in a bulletin on Monday, citing new closures of border crossings by Lithuania and the possibility of more to come.

“The Lithuanian government on August 18 closed two border crossings with Belarus at Tverecius/Vidzy and Sumskas/Losha,” the department said. “The Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian governments have stated that further closures of border crossings with Belarus are possible.”

“US citizens in Belarus should depart immediately,” the bulletin added. 

Americans are urged to travel by land using the “remaining border crossings with Lithuania and Latvia,” because they cannot cross into Poland from Belarus, or by plane, though not to Russia or Ukraine.

The Ukraine-Belarus border has likewise been closed. Meanwhile, most Western airlines have halted flights to Minsk and closed their airspace to Belarusian and Russian airlines, leaving few options.

Washington has urged its citizens not to travel to Belarus for years, first citing the Covid-19 pandemic, then the 2020 unrest following the presidential election – which the US claims to have been rigged or stolen – and since February 2022, Minsk’s support for Moscow’s military operation against Kiev. 

According to the State Department, Belarus is also dangerous due to “the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, the risk of detention,” and the inability of the US to assist its citizens, since the embassy in Minsk “suspended operations” at the end of February 2022 .

The Polish government has increased its military presence along the border with Belarus over the past month, citing what they called a threat of “hybrid warfare” by Wagner Group fighters who left Russia at the end of July, following a failed mutiny. 

Minsk has repeatedly insisted that there is no threat and that Warsaw is getting hysterical due to domestic politics ahead of the general election. Meanwhile, Moscow has warned that any attack on Belarus would be treated as an attack on Russia itself.

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