Lithuania closes rail border with Belarus, too much smuggling
Starting on 16 February, Lithuania is closing the Stasylos-Byenyakoni rail border crossing with Belarus because of too many smuggling cases. Currently, therefore, the only rail border crossing left open between the two countries is Kena-Gudogai. Moreover, Lithuania is pulling out of the Cross-Border Cooperation Program with Belarus regarding the flow of transport across the whole border.
According to Belsat, a Polish media, Lithuanian customs officials said this decision was linked to the lack of x-ray systems at the Stasylos station. The lack of proper checking devices makes it easier to smuggle illegal goods from Belarus to Lithuania and, especially, the Russian exclave Kaliningrad.
Over the past few months, in fact, the Lithuanian border guards had to deal with episodes of smuggling illegal cargo and wagons branded with pro-Russia symbols. The illegal cargo, bound for Kaliningrad, was seized while the illegal wagons were set back to Kaliningrad and Belarus respectively.
Stasylos site to stay closed until anti-smuggling tech is updated
Belsat also said that Lithuanian customs officials confirmed that the closing of the Stasylos-Byenyakoni rail border crossing is a temporary solution. However, there is no reopening date set for now. The Kena-Gudogai rail border crossing remained open because it can count on better x-ray technologies to ensure better controls and prevent smuggling in a more effective manner.
The Lithuanian Customs, in collaboration with LTG Infra, placed an x-ray control system at the Kena customs railway post on the border with Belarus. Back in October 2022, LTG Infra’s CEO told RailFreight.com that two x-ray scanners would be installed at the Stasylos-Byenyakoni border crossing, as well as in Kybartai, bordering Kaliningrad. As Agne Bilotaite, the Lithuanian Minister of Internal Affairs was quoted saying by Lithuania media, the Stasylos site will reopen once the scanners will be implemented.
Lithuania canceled cooperation agreement with Belarus as well
Lithuania will stop collaborating with Belarus under the Cross-Border Cooperation Program, as the Lithuanian Ministry of Internal Affairs said at the end of January. The State Border Committee of Belarus pointed out on Telegram that Lithuanian authorities did not specify the reasons for their unilateral decision to terminate the collaboration.
However, the Lithuanian Ministry of Transport did claim that “the Government’s decision was taken in the light of the political situation in Belarus following the fraudulent 2020 presidential elections, Lukashenko regime’s instrumentalisation of migration against EU countries and its involvement in the war against Ukraine.” Already in 2020, Lithuania suspended all payments to Belarus and its partners under the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme. This agreement was signed in June 2006.
Not only Lithuania: Poland is isolating Belarus as well
Lithuania is not the first country to close one of its border crossings with Belarus. On 10 February, for example, Poland closed the road border crossing with Belarus near Bobrowniki. A source from Lithuania told RailFreight.com that only the road border crossing would be closed here, with the rail one nearby, around Kuznica, remaining open.
Currently, as mentioned by Reuters, only two of the six border crossings between Poland and Belarus are operational. Poland’s decision came after a journalist belonging to a Polish minority in Belarus, Andrzej Poczobut, was arrested in January in Belarus and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. Prior to the sentence, according to the Polish government, Poczobut spent 500 days in detention in Belarus.
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