Lithuanian deputies have submitted a bill to the Lithuanian Seimas to deprive Belarusian and Russian nationals of temporary residency if they travel to their home country more than once a month due to espionage concerns.

The bill also calls for the cancellation of residence for Russians and Belarusians in Lithuania who publicly approved the “crime of Russian aggression” and “deliberately and systematically publicly disseminate false information that is against the interests of society or the state.”

The Lithuania deputies cited concerns over Belarusians with local residency being recruited for “intelligence functions” upon their frequent return to Belarus, whose capital Minsk is only a 2-hour drive from Vilnius.

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“However, the absolute majority of Belarusians who have a temporary residence permit in Lithuania return to Belarus more or less regularly. Among them there are those who have a temporary residence permit issued on humanitarian grounds.

“Thousands of such cases were recorded last December. In Belarus, these people have their families, friends, relatives, they return during the big holidays of the year. However, they may be recruited there, may be asked to perform certain intelligence functions, etc,” read the bill.

Lithuania, and its neighboring Poland, have been housing thousands of Belarusian dissidents who fled the country following the 2020 Belarusian presidential election, which saw widespread oppression against locals who questioned the legitimacy of the election and current Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s purported victory.

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According to the bill, about 62,000 people entered Lithuania and received a temporary residence permit, of which 31,000 were issued to Belarusians in 2022 and 23,000 more were issued a year later.

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“In order to control the risks arising from the frequent return to Belarus of Belarusians who have a temporary residence permit in Lithuania, it would be appropriate to cancel the temporary residence permit issued to Belarusian citizens in Lithuania if they go to Belarus more than once a month in the last 12 months.

“Such a restrictive measure should also be applied to Russian citizens,” read the bill.

Lithuania has been a safe haven for Belarusians and Russians fleeing from their respective regimes, but Vilnius has also tightened its immigration control with the two nations since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 due to security concerns.

In August 2023, Vilnius declared more than 1,000 Russians and Belarusians national security risks and stripped them of their permanent residency; it has also halted issuing visas and electronic resident status to the two and imposed additional checks upon their entry. In January, a Belarusian nude model was arrested by Polish authorities over espionage activities.

However, Lithuania has also extended the residence for those who entered the country through “the mediation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” – including Belarusians – from one year to three year.

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