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Czechs Pledge $600,000 To Lithuania To Shore Up Border With Belarus

Migrants gather near a fence at a temporary detention center in Kazitiskis, Lithuania, on August 12.
Migrants gather near a fence at a temporary detention center in Kazitiskis, Lithuania, on August 12.

The Czech Republic has pledged 530,000 euros ($630,000) to Lithuania to help secure its border with Belarus amid accusations that Minsk is intentionally sending thousands of migrants into the Baltic state.

Lithuania, a member of the European Union and NATO, along with fellow members Poland and Latvia, has seen a surge of migrants arriving from Belarus in recent months.

The three countries, along with Estonia, have urged the United Nations to take action against Belarus for allegedly encouraging migrants to cross illegally into the European Union in retaliation for the West's sanctions against Belarus over its ongoing crackdown on civil society, rights activists, and opposition in the former Soviet republic.

On September 7, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite and Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek signed a document on joint measures to expedite construction of a fence along the border with Belarus.

Kulhanek said Belarus's authoritarian ruler, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, "has to be stopped" as he "continues to weaponize illegal migration as a means to blackmail Lithuania and the European Union as a whole."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Agne Bilotaite said the Czech Republic's support "is important for it shows that Lithuania is not alone, that the protection of the EU's external borders is not a matter for us alone, but in the interest and the most important priority of the entire European Union."

Lithuanian authorities said last month that more than 3,000 illegal migrants had crossed the border so far this year, compared to 81 all of last year. Most of the migrants arrived in July.

The Baltic country, which shares a border with Belarus of about 680 kilometers, is a central hub for the Belarusian opposition, led by Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

The EU and its Western allies imposed further sanctions on Lukashenka's regime after Belarus forced a Vilnius-bound passenger flight from Athens to land in Minsk to arrest a dissident journalist and his girlfriend.

In a sign of a growing regional response to the issue, the defense ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- the three Baltic EU and NATO members -- agreed on July 29 to better coordinate action to address the migrant crisis.

With reporting by Delfi and AP
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