Latvian border security forces have alleged that Belarusian authorities have attempted to arm illegal immigrants headed towards Latvia with firearms as Belarusian border troops have expanded their arsenal to include machine guns and sniper rifles.
According to Guntis Pujāts, Chief of the State Border Guard for Latvia speaking to local media outlet LETA news, there have been reports of instances where Belarusian authorities allegedly offered firearms to individuals planning to cross the Belarus-Latvia border illegally.
"Of course, such incidents increase the risks, security risks, and can escalate to shootouts," Pujāts stated.
Latvian troops build a temporary razor-wire fence along the Latvian-Belarus border near Robeznieki, Latvia. Photo Credit; Reuters/Ints Kalnins/File Photo
Pujāts stated that the Belarusian regime also purportedly provided instructions to these individuals on how to confront Latvian border guards if they impeded their crossing.
However, fortunately the immigrants declined to use the weapons and there have been no reported incidents of firearms being used against Latvian border guards this year.
He noted that the immigrants are sent "predominantly to Lithuania, but pressure may increase on the region as a whole. This means not only immigrants, but also other types of attacks against Lithuania, such as cyber-attacks," Pujāts warned.
Pujāts also noted the armaments of the Belarusian side's border security forces, saying that many of their units had been equipped with PKM machine guns and SVD sniper rifle systems, typically allocated to regular army troops and uncharacteristic of frontier security units.
While such incidents were recorded towards the end of 2022, no new occurrences have been reported in recent months. On June 8, the State Border Guard prevented 32 individuals from illegally entering Latvia from Belarus. This year, a total of 3,793 people have been prevented from crossing into Latvia from Belarus, while 187 individuals have been allowed entry on humanitarian grounds.
Latvian-Belarusian frontier markers. Photo Credit: Dinija Jemeļjanova/LTV
In the preceding year, Latvian border guards thwarted 5,286 attempts to illegally enter Latvia from Belarus, while 217 individuals were permitted to cross the border due to humanitarian reasons.
A state of emergency was initially declared in the eastern Latvian municipalities of Ludza and Kraslava, as well as Daugavpils City, on August 10, 2021. Subsequently, it was extended multiple times, with the most recent extension expiring on August 10, 2023.
Latvian authorities view the alleged attempts by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's regime to facilitate the passage of third-country nationals across the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland as a form of hybrid warfare.
All of this comes as the NATO summit in Vilnius, scheduled for July 11 and 12, is set to outline NATO's vision for the coming years, including the matter of Ukrainian support.
NATO members along the frontier with Belarus have blamed the nation of using hybrid warfare tactics to destabilize the region, even prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Minsk has denied this, framing it as a humanitarian crisis that Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and others have caused.
Cover Photo Credit; REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo