EU border with Belarus: In Lithuania’s exclusion zone


Status: 11/22/2021 11:24 a.m.

A meter-high barbed wire fence, motion detectors in the ground: Lithuania is using all means to arm its border with Belarus to fend off migrants. They only bother journalists.

By Sofie Donges, ARD-Studio Stockholm, currently Druskininkai

On the premises of a border protection station in Druskininkai in the south of Lithuania, only a few kilometers away from the border with Belarus: A minibus drives up, in it are politicians from the capital Vilnius. You meet here with the border guards to discuss the situation. A short time later they are standing close together in a control room with many monitors on which different border sections can be observed live.

In this border area there is an already completed section of the fence, says Rustamas Liubajevas, the head of the Lithuanian border guard, to his guests. He points to one of the many monitors: Here you can see a map with small symbols that look like vehicles and people. They slowly slide along the border line.

Liubajevas explains that it is a fully automated system that registers any movement. The cameras would then automatically display images from the corresponding areas during the day and at night. 500 of the 670 kilometer long border between Lithuania and Belarus are to be secured in the future.

A border guard points to camera recordings in the surveillance room.

Photo: ARD-Studio Stockholm

Meter-high barbed wire fence

The group should take a closer look at this system – so everyone gets back into their cars. That too ARD-Studio Stockholm is allowed to go to the border – not a matter of course. Lithuania declared a state of emergency on November 10th. Since then, the border area has been a restricted zone into which journalists and non-governmental organizations are not allowed. International observers and journalism organizations such as Reporters Without Borders criticize this as restricting the freedom of the press. After much back and forth with the authorities, a permit was issued to approach the border to a maximum of 100 meters – now the delegation is going straight to the fence.

The last part is on foot on a small road through the forest. A border guard employee warns: Belarusian security forces will be watching us, maybe even filming us; you shouldn’t provoke them under any circumstances. The border itself is a white line on the road with barbed wire to the left and right. The newly built fence is four meters high, reinforced with barbed wire and so tightly meshed that it seems impossible to climb it.

Motion detector in the floor

However, the border guards do not rely on this fact alone, explains Rustamas Liubajevas: “In addition, we have laid cables in the ground that register all kinds of vibrations when someone walks over them: from an animal, a person or a car, for example. One Software can identify this and sends this information to the control room, where the employee can then precisely say: is it an animal, a person or a car? ” The patrols in the vicinity would then be informed accordingly and sent to the appropriate location.

The Lithuanian-Belarusian border.

Photo: ARD-Studio Stockholm

The construction project should be completed by autumn 2022. Laurynas Kasčiūnas is the chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee in Parliament. He leads the delegation and looks around with satisfaction. The fence protects Lithuania and the EU, he says: “I think it is not a physical barrier against the free world. It is one against the authoritarian countries that want to destroy the free world. This fence protects our traditions and democracy from that Lukashenko regime. “

Occasional arrivals from Belarus

But for the time being, the fence is supposed to keep migrants from entering the country. Only a few smaller groups from Belarus arrive here – very different than in late summer, reports Liubajevas.

The night before, there was an incident in which the border guards picked up 35 refugees. “The people told us that they were brought here from the Polish border. And then they were brutally pushed to us by Belarusian security forces. They didn’t want to go to Lithuania at all, they wanted to fly to Minsk and then back home,” said Liubajevas.

Then what happened to the refugees? They got food and clothes, says the head of the border guard, and then returned voluntarily. Whether that was the case cannot be verified – like everything that is currently happening on the EU border with Belarus. Journalists would prefer to only have Lithuania’s border guards with them on official appointments.

On the Lithuanian-Belarusian border

Sofie Donges, ARD Stockholm, 21.11.2021 · 09:06

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