The European Union's border agency says it will deploy 60 guards next week to monitor Lithuania's frontier amid an influx of migrants crossing illegally from Belarus, a move seen as revenge by Minsk after the bloc imposed a new round of sanctions on Alyaksandr Lukashenka's repressive regime.
Frontex Executive Director Fabrice Leggeri, on a trip to Vilnius amid a flood of migrant crossings unleashed by Lukashenka in recent months, said on July 19 that the EU was "facing something that is unprecedented."
"It's the first time in history that Frontex has to deploy such an operation in this region of the European Union," Leggeri said.
Almost illegal 2,100 migrants have entered Lithuania from Belarus this year, including 1,400 this month alone, the Lithuanian border guard service has said.
Lukashenka has repeatedly threatened to allow migrants to cross into the EU in response to sanctions imposed on Minsk following a disputed presidential election last year and a subsequent crackdown on those protesting the strongman's claim that he won reelection by a landslide.
Lithuania, which has a nearly 680-kilometer border with Belarus, has been particularly hard hit. It accuses Belarus of deliberately allowing migrants -- a large number of whom are from Iraq -- across its borders.
Vilnius has even accused Minsk of flying in migrants from abroad to send illegally into the EU.
The Frontex deployment, which was requested by Lithuania, is the agency's first since it began policing Greece's land border with Turkey in March 2020.
The Frontex mission, which will last until October 6, will employ some 30 vehicles and two helicopters, along with staff to screen and interview migrants.
Lithuania is also building a 550-kilometer razor-wire barrier on the border, but construction has stalled because of a shortage of razor wire.
EU members Slovenia and Denmark will supply razor wire "as fast as possible," in addition to what Vilnius can procure on its own, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite said.