Fact Check: Lithuanians Did NOT Speak Out Against Closing Border Checkpoints With Belarus

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  • Автор: Lead Stories Staff
Fact Check: Lithuanians Did NOT Speak Out Against Closing Border Checkpoints With Belarus Out Of Context

Did Lithuanians voice their opinion on closing border crossings with neighboring Belarus? No, that's not true: The claim is based on a statement by the vice-chancellor and head of the National Crisis Management Centre of Lithuania, Vilmantas Vitkauskas, taken out of context.

The claim appeared in a video (archived here) on TikTok by sotniktiktok on November 22, 2023, under the title (translated from Russian by Lead Stories staff) "Lithuanians spoke against closing the border checkpoints with Belarus." The text on the video continued (as translated):

Vice-Chancellor and Head of the National Crisis Management Centre of Lithuania Vilmantas Vitkauskas declared that closing the checkpoints on the border with Belarus is impractical and that the issue with illegal import by Lithuanians goods carriers will be taken care of. There are no issues with the Belarusians, goods transportation requirements are fully complied with on their side.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-11-23 at 8.52.44 PM.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Thu Nov 23 16:25:55 2023 UTC)

The claim does not reflect what Vitkauskas said. Lithuania closed two border checkpoints with Belarus in August 2023 at Tverecius/Vidzy and Sumskas/Losha because of "geopolitical circumstances" and the presence of the Wagner Group on Belarusian territory. The decision was also motivated by the smuggling of goods between the two countries.

Lithuanian Minister of Internal Affairs Agne Bilotaite, during the same month, proposed discussing the closing of the Lavoriškės and Raigardas checkpoints on the Belarusian border.

On November 21, 2023, Vitkauskas commented in an interview with LRT radio on that proposal -- still to be evaluated -- pointing out that it would not be the most effective way to fight illegal import into the country. He underlined that the most efficient way of combating illegal import was X-ray machines and organizational and analytical methods. He did not focus only on smuggling and illegal import, though he recognized this constitutes a problem for Lithuania.

Vitkauskas said (as translated):

'Illegal import is a serious threat, but we also have illegal migration, there are incidents at the border, quite aggressive actions by Belarusian Border Committee staff, and security services activities. I think when we talk about closing the checkpoints, we should not talk only about illegal import.'

The video on TikTok also claimed that Vitkauskas praised Belarusian goods carriers for "fulfilling all the requirements," while in an article published on the LRT radio website, reporting on Vitkauskas' statements during the interview, there is no mention of that.

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