Lithuanian authorities have reported 116 more arrests of migrants crossing the border from Belarus, an increase in crossings that Lithuania says Minsk is deliberately organizing in retaliation for European Union sanctions.
The Lithuanian Border Security Service said on July 3 that border guards also fired tear gas and warning shots while a group of migrants was detained.
the last digits bring the number of migrants detained in the last two days to 179, the service said; a total of 938 people have been arrested from Belarus this year, 12 times more than last year.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said late on July 2 that the government had declared a state of emergency, and he accused Lukashenka of seeking “to arm migration to weaken our resolve to take sanctions.”
Vilnius maintains that migrants, most of whom are Iraqis, are being moved to the border with Lithuania, where Belarusian border guards turn a blind eye when entering the European Union member state.
Lithuania has been one of the fiercest criticisms of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka since the controversial presidential election last August. Lukashenka, 66, claimed victory, sparking months of unprecedented protests.
The opposition says the elections were rigged and the West refused to recognize the results of the vote.
The Baltic state offered refuge to Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who her supporters said was the real winner of the election.
Vilnius has also become a center for Belarusians in exile, and the two countries have expelled a number of diplomats as relations have deteriorated in recent weeks.
The EU’s border guard service, Frontex, has sent teams to Lithuania to help deal with the influx of migrants.