Lithuania, a member of the European Union, has faced an influx of mostly Iraqi migrants in recent months. She accused the government of the Belarusian authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko of the influx of migrants in revenge for the sanctions that the EU imposed on Belarus due to the redirection of a commercial plane to Minsk for the arrest of the opposition.
On Thursday, Lukashenko responded by ordering defense and security agencies to “close every meter of the border” so that Lithuania would not return migrants back to Belarus.
Authorities in Belarus claimed this week that Iraqi migrants forcibly expelled from Lithuania and returned to Belarus had injuries, including dog bites, and had to be hospitalized.
Polish authorities have also accused Belarus of sending an increasing number of migrants across the border.
Maciej Vasik, the deputy interior minister, accused Belarus of using migrants as “living weapons” in a “hybrid war”.
He told the Polish media that the authorities saw the move as revenge for Warsaw’s decision to take refuge this week to Kristina Timanovska, a Belarusian athlete who refused to return home from the Tokyo Olympics.