The US embassy in Belarus has told its citizens to leave the country “immediately,” citing an increasing number of border closures with neighboring countries.

 

The Lithuanian government on August 18 closed two border crossings with Belarus with four remaining open.

 

The Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian governments, however, have stated that further closures of border crossings with Belarus are possible.

 

An alert issued by the US embassy in Belarus, said: “US citizens in Belarus should depart immediately.  Consider departing via the remaining border crossings with Lithuania and Latvia, or by plane. 

 

The US embassy also advised against all travel to the country “due to Belarusian authorities’ continued facilitation of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces in Belarus, the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, the potential of civil unrest, the risk of detention, and the Embassy’s limited ability to assist US citizens residing in or traveling to Belarus.”

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Lithuania, a member of NATO's eastern flank, responded to escalating tensions between the neighbors, with Vilnius warning of a provocations threat by Minsk.

 

But the officials in Vilnius said the decision will also help control smuggling, as the remaining four border checkpoints have X-ray systems to detect illegally transported goods, mainly cigarettes.

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The decision is also meant to curb traveling across the border for shopping or family visits. In the first half of 2023, Lithuanian citizens crossed the border with Belarus 230,000 times.

 

But Vilnius has been warning that Minsk may try to recruit those travelers for espionage, exert psychological pressure, or even blackmail them by performing checks on their phones and social media.

 

The Lithuania-Belarus ties had been tense for years, but they further deteriorated after Belarusian 2020 presidential elections, widely slammed as rigged.

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Belarus criticized the decision to close checkpoints, calling it “far-fetched.”

 

“Lithuania, by taking such decisions, purposefully and deliberately creates artificial barriers on the border to serve its political ambitions,” Belarus' border force said on social media Wednesday.

 

Both Poland and Lithuania have erected fences on their borders with Belarus and Russia.

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