Last month, the Lithuanian government announced that it would cordon off a 70-mile section of its border with Belarus to keep migrants out. Reuters has reported that 4,100 migrants, mostly from Central Asia and the Middle East, have entered Lithuania. These migrants arrived from the Belarusian side and the European Union has accused Belarus of sending migrants to EU countries in retaliation for the economic sanctions imposed on the political opposition following the actions of Alexander Lukashenko. Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas, quoted in Reuters, accused Russia, a key ally of Belarus, to be working with Belarus to cause the crisis, saying: “We believe Belarus coordinated its actions with Russia from the start. ”
Since 2020 the Belarusian people have been protesting against the continued rule of Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 and is referred to as “Europe’s last dictator”. Belarus held a presidential election in 2020, in which Lukashenko held his 6th The controversial elections, coupled with poor economic conditions and the Lukashenko regime’s improper handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraged Belarusians to protest against the authoritarian conditions to take to the streets in Belarus.
The European Union reacted to the election controversy with a declaration on the “so-called ‘inauguration’” by Mikhail Lukashenko. In a statement on September 24, 2020, the European Union stated that “the presidential elections in Belarus on August 9 were neither free nor fair. The European Union does not recognize their falsified results. On this basis, the so-called ‘inauguration’ of September 23, 2020 and the new mandate of Alexander Lukashenko lacked any democratic legitimacy. ”In connection with its condemnation of the election results, the European Union imposed sanctions on 40 Belarusian officials, in a clear denial of the legitimacy of Lukashenko. Lukashenko responded by accusing the EU and “Western organizations” of trying to “harm” Belarus by destabilizing the country by supporting Tsikhanouskaya’s opposition claim.
According to the BBC, Lithuania and its allies have now accused Belarus of flying in migrants from the Middle East to send them across the border in retaliation for EU sanctions. Belarus has since denied this claim, while the European Union has condemned Belarus for trying to “instrumentalize people for political purposes”. European Parliament President David Sassoli said Belarus could face tougher sanctions for an incident in which Belarusian border guards were accused of physically pushing Iraqi migrants into Lithuania. The incident has forced Lithuania to strengthen its border security, build a razor-sharp fence and increase border staff in response to Belarus’s actions.
Lithuania sent five Afghan migrants back to Belarus shortly after crossing the Lithuanian border, despite an order from the European Court of Human Rights allowing the migrants to stay in Lithuania. It seems that Belarus and Lithuania are now playing a political chess game, using disadvantaged and stateless migrants to advance political agendas. Lukashenko’s seizure of power has not let up despite the national and international outcry against his rule. The actions of both nations of using people as political pawns are abhorrent, and the people involved in this push-and-pull scramble for power between EU-friendly Vilnius and Minsk deserve better, especially as other EUs -Members like Poland and Latvia have resorted to this year, migrants are being pushed back to Belarus. This game is a continuation of the extreme backlash that has been witnessed in parts of Europe in response to the influx of migrants, which is helping to rebirth right-wing extremist movements across the continent.