Poland and Lithuania are considering closing their respective borders with Belarus amid concerns over the presence there of the Wagner mercenary group, a Lithuanian deputy interior minister said on Friday.
“The considerations are real. The possibility of closing the border exists,” Arnoldas Abramavičius told reporters.
Belarus has been hosting Wagner fighters after their short-lived rebellion against Russia’s top military brass.
The Polish prime minister said on Saturday that more than 100 mercenaries belonging to the Russian-linked group had moved close to the Polish border. Mateusz Morawiecki said the mercenaries had moved close to the Suwalki Gap, a strategic stretch of Polish territory situated between Belarus and Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave.
Lithuania has repeatedly warned its western allies that Wagner mercenaries could disguise themselves as asylum seekers trying to cross Belarus’s borders with EU member states, or stage provocations involving refugees.
“It could be some groups of refugees, irregular migrants being transferred in order to cause some kind of unrest,” Abramavičius said.
Poland’s ruling party chair, Jarosław Kaczyński, said on Friday that Wagner fighters were “not in Belarus for fun”.
“They are there to create various types of crises, primarily directed against Poland,” Kaczyński said, adding that Poland had been building up its defence capabilities “so that these provocations, these activities, fail”.
Poland and Lithuania have both erected fences on their borders with Belarus and Russia, accusing Minsk and Moscow of orchestrating migrant influxes into the EU in order to destabilise the bloc.