Lithuanian soldiers patrol a road near the Lithuania-Belarus border in November 2021.

Lithuanian soldiers patrol a road near the Lithuania-Belarus border in November 2021. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP)

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania decided Wednesday to seal off another two of its six checkpoints with Belarus as of next month, amid growing tensions with its eastern neighbor, an ally of Russia. This brings the total of closed border crossings into the Baltic country to four.

The Lavoriskes and Raigardas checkpoints will stop functioning on March 1, as all the traffic will be diverted to the remaining two at the villages of Medininkai and Salcininkai. Vilnius also decided to suspend the movement of pedestrians and cyclists through the last remaining checkpoints.

Tensions on NATO’s and the European Union’s borders spiked after Belarus took in thousands of Russia’s military mercenaries. It has also been accused of pushing Middle Eastern and African migrants into Europe, despite various forms of barriers having been put up.

Wednesday’s decision was fueled “by the risks associated with the increased activities of the Belarusian intelligence and security services against Lithuania and our citizens,” Lithuania’s Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė told reporters.

“Large resources are needed to control flows, prevent smuggling, ensure international sanctions, and reduce traffic safety risks,” she added.

The number of permits issued to Belarusian and Lithuanian carriers operating regular international bus passenger services will also be gradually reduced, according to an interior ministry statement.

Some 3.9 million people crossed the Lithuanian-Belarusian border via road border checkpoints last year, 66% of whom were Belarusian citizens.

In August 2023, Lithuania closed two border crossings for similar reasons.

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