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HomeLithuaniaLithuanian natl security commission proposes closing Lavoriskes, Raigardas checkpoints

Lithuanian natl security commission proposes closing Lavoriskes, Raigardas checkpoints

Lithuania’s National Security Commission has proposed suspending the movement of goods, transport and persons through the Lavoriskes and Raigardas border checkpoints as of March 1, the government said on Tuesday.

“The plan is to close two border checkpoints from March 1, namely Raigardas and Lavoriskes, and there is also a decision to restrict the movement of people on bicycles and foot at all checkpoints on the border with Belarus,” Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of the National Crisis Management Center (NCMC), told a press conference.

Lithuania closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus – Sumskas and Tverecius – last summer. If the government approves the closure of Lavoriskes and Raigardas, only two checkpoints – Medininkai and Salcininkai – will remain open.

The commission also proposed to restrict the pick-up and drop-off of passengers at the Kena railway border checkpoint to tackle the problem of passengers on transit trains to Kaliningrad disembarking in Lithuania with documents issued by any EU member state for travel within the bloc.

The government is also to decide on proposals to gradually reduce the number of permits issued to Belarusian and Lithuanian carriers operating regular international bus passenger services, and to halt the movement of cyclists and pedestrians across the border with Belarus.

The National Security Commission is tabling the proposals after discussing on Tuesday risks associated with transit flows from Belarus via Lithuania and Belarusian intelligence and security services’ activities.

Increased flow of Belarusian citizens

According to Vitkauskas, the commission chose to close the Lavoriskes and Raigardas checkpoints because of the condition of their infrastructure and an increased flow of Belarusian citizens, compared to Lithuanian nationals traveling to the neighboring authoritarian state.

“Lavoriskes has seen the biggest decrease in the movement of our citizens across the border, while Raigardas has seen a significant increase in the movement of Belarusian citizens, which creates a disproportion,” he said.

According to the NCMC head, the flow of Belarusian citizens across all road border checkpoints with Belarus has soared by about 50 percent recently.

“The increase in the flow of transport, goods and people requires optimization of the process of managing these flows and even more thorough screening of persons, vehicles and goods,” he said.

The official said that it was also suggested that the Foreign Ministry should engage more with members of the Belarusian opposition in Lithuania and advise them to avoid travelling to Belarus “because of certain threats lurking there”.

The State Security Department has warned of attempts by Belarusian intelligence to recruit Belarusians returning from Lithuania to their home country.

The government said in its press release that the proposed measures, if adopted, would reduce the flow of vehicles and passengers transiting through Lithuania and leave fewer chances for Belarusian and Russian intelligence and security services to act against Lithuania.

The move is also expected to help more effectively bar the entry of sanctioned goods into Belarus and Russia, prevent smuggling, and improve the protection of the external border of the Schengen area.

Two checkpoints to cope with flows  

Vitkauskas expects the two remaining checkpoints in Medininkai and Salcininkai to cope with the increased traffic once the Lavoriskes and Raigardas posts are closed.

“The timing of the closure of the checkpoints is not incidental, because current flows, especially of heavy trucks, are very low,” the official said.

“For example, today we have 181 trucks waiting in line. By comparison, there were over 2,000 a few weeks ago, just before the holidays,” he said. “So, redistributing traffic to other checkpoints won’t create huge problems.”

The NCMC head said that the Medininkai border checkpoint can handle “several times more vehicles than are queuing up today”.

According to the center, the proposed measures would help improve traffic safety as currently the infrastructure of the road leading to the Lavoriskes checkpoint is not adapted and lacks a waiting area for vehicles, forcing heavy trucks to park on the carriageway.

Almost 3.9 million people crossing the Lithuanian-Belarusian border via road border checkpoints underwent checks last year, 25.5 percent more than in 2022, and Belarusian citizens accounted for 66 percent of them.

Lithuanian citizens crossed the border 684,000 times, 13.4 percent less than in 2022, while the number of unique persons who crossed the border last year amounted to almost 62,000, a drop of 17.5 percent.

The largest number of Lithuanian citizens crossed the border via the Salcininkai and Lavoriskes road border checkpoints.

Source: BNS

(Reproduction of BNS information in mass media and other websites without written consent of BNS is prohibited.)


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