“We are talking here about Belarusian exploitation of refugees and migrants, which is completely unacceptable,” Joao Gomes Cravinho said on the sidelines of a reception for a Portuguese naval force that returned today from the NATO mission in Lithuania.
While noting that the internal administration ministers discussed this issue, Gomez Cravino noted that he attended, on Friday, a meeting of EU defense ministers, in which “the Lithuanian colleague and several other people – also from Poland, which is also under the same pressure – participated in explaining the situation” .
For the defense minister, what is happening on the Lithuanian border is “completely different from other facts.”
“We are talking about the exploitation of the Belarusian government – President Lukashenko, who, incidentally, is still in power despite losing the elections several months ago – who decided that this would be a way to put pressure on Lithuania, which welcomed the winning elections,” the minister criticized.
“It is clear that Lithuania has all our solidarity, it is clearly unacceptable, it is clear that the borders must be respected and supported, and therefore we are ready – we and all NATO allies and EU member states – to support Lithuania in this circumstance,” he emphasized.
In recent months, Lithuania, a member state of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has seen a massive influx of migrants from Belarus, mostly from Iraq.
The Lithuanian government considers this migratory flow near its border an act of retaliation by the disputed Belarusian president against the sanctions imposed by the societal bloc on the Minsk regime, specifically for the diversion of a civilian plane last May and the arrest of an opponent who was on board the machine.
In August, the Lithuanian government ordered border guards to reject and expel all immigrants from Belarus who attempted to enter Lithuanian territory illegally, using force if necessary.
In response, Lukashenko ordered the Belarusian defense and security agencies to “close every meter of the border” so that the migrants would not be allowed to enter Belarusian territory again.
This situation exacerbates the already tense relations between the two “neighboring” countries, which have worsened since the August 9, 2020 elections in Belarus, which returned Lukashenko, in power for nearly three decades, to a sixth presidential term, but also the environment that has been felt between the two countries. Minsk and the West.
The Belarusian opposition and the West considered that the vote was fraudulent.
Lithuania, a country of just under three million people, shares a border with Belarus of about 680 kilometers.
4,090 migrants have crossed the border between Belarus and Lithuania this year, according to figures cited by international agencies.
Lithuanian authorities expect that more than 10,000 migrants may try to reach the Baltic country this year.
Today, the Minister of Defense was present at the reception ceremony for the Marine Corps of the Portuguese Navy, consisting of 145 soldiers, who were on a mission in Lithuania, in the context of the reassurance measures taken by NATO in that region.
“It is always a pleasure to welcome back our national forces, in this case, the Marines, who have been on the NATO mission for several months, a very important task for our allies in the Baltic states and which always leads to great thanks from the authorities of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia as well as Poland, who They feel our closeness and our solidarity,” he said in a statement he made after the official confessions.
“This is very important because NATO is one group, and there are times when we also need to support other NATO allies and show our solidarity,” he said.
“This is the best way to ensure our security and our full commitment to NATO in the long term,” Gomez Cravino added.
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