Latvia sends soldiers to boost security on border with Belarus

Latvia says country is facing increased ‘hybrid threats’ and blames Belarusian authorities of involvement in encouraging people to cross border.

Latvian special unit Border Guard officer patrols along the fence at Latvia-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia August 8, 2023. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins
A Latvian Border Guard officer patrols the Latvia-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia, on August 8, 2023 [Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

Latvia’s defence minister has ordered the army to help guard the country’s border with Belarus amid what was described as “hybrid threats” facing the country and as a reported 96 attempts were made by people to cross the border in 24 hours.

Latvian Border Guard officers have been recalled from their holidays to help with patrols, officials said on Tuesday.

Latvia has “information about a possible increase in hybrid threats”, the Border Guard said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that Belarusian authorities were increasingly involved in organising the flow of people – many of whom are asylum seekers and refugees – across Latvia’s borders.

Due to the threats, the Border Guard imposed a holiday ban. In addition, the border authorities requested support from the Latvian Armed Forces and police. Latvian Defence Minister Inara Murniece then ordered the army to deploy additional forces to the border, according to reports.

More detailed information on the number of units deployed was not immediately available.

Latvia, which shares a border of about 172km (106 miles) with Belarus – a close ally of Russia – accuses the neighbour and its ruler, President Alexander Lukashenko, of deliberately bringing people from crisis-hit regions of the world to its border.

European Union members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have expressed increasing worry about “illegal” border crossings since hundreds of battle-hardened Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group arrived in Belarus last month at the invitation of President Lukashenko.

Lukashenko has said several times that he has been restraining Wagner fighters who want to attack Poland.

Poland, which has also reported an increase in the number of mainly Middle Eastern and African people trying to cross the border in recent months, is planning to move up to 10,000 additional troops to the border with Belarus to support its border guards, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said last week.

In 2021, Latvia, Poland and Lithuania faced a border crisis when thousands of people, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, sought to cross into Poland from Belarus but were pushed back.

Source: News Agencies