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EU Commissioner Due In Lithuania To Discuss Belarusian Border Crisis

A senior EU official is due in Lithuania on August 2 to discuss further measures to curb the growing number of people illegally crossing the border from Belarus.

Lithuanian authorities have reported a sharp increase in irregular arrivals in its territory from Belarus in recent months in what is seen as revenge by Minsk after the European Union imposed a new round of sanctions on Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s repressive regime.

Lithuania has also become a center for the Belarusian opposition, led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, since a disputed presidential election last year.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson will meet Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte in Vilnius, according to Brussels. She is then due to visit the Padvarionys border crossing point, together with Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite.

Within one day, almost 200 people crossed the border earlier this week, bringing the total number of intercepted migrants this year to 3,500 — compared to 81 in the whole of last year. Most of them have applied for asylum.

The Baltic country, which shares a nearly 680-kilometer border with Belarus, accuses Minsk of deliberately allowing migrants across its borders.

Lukashenka has repeatedly threatened to allow migrants from war zones such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to cross into the EU in response to sanctions imposed on Minsk following the disputed presidential election in August last year and a subsequent crackdown on those protesting the strongman’s claim that he won reelection by a landslide.

Additional border guards from the EU border agency Frontex have already been sent to the country in recent weeks and more are set to follow.

In her talks with Lithuanian lawmakers, Johansson plans to outline more closely the nature of additional EU support.

More EU sanctions on Belarus are also a possibility.

With reporting by dpa

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