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EU nation mobilizes border guard

Latvia is deploying additional border agents to counter what it describes as mounting migration pressure from neighboring Belarus, with the country’s military also stepping in to reinforce the area, authorities have said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Latvian State Border Guard explained that the decision was made due to “the rapidly growing hybrid threat” in the region, adding that it had registered 96 attempts to illegally cross the border with Belarus in the past 24 hours.

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The agency also noted “increased involvement of the Belarusian authorities in organizing the flow of illegal immigrants.”

“For the time being, the granting of annual leave to State Border Guard officials is stopped and the officials who are currently on annual leave are withdrawn from it,” the statement read. It also said the agency had requested additional assistance from the military and police.

Latvian Defense Minister Inara Murniece responded to the request, saying that she had instructed the armed forces to provide additional support to strengthen the eastern frontier.

The mobilization comes after the Latvian government last week announced an enhanced security regime on the border with its southern neighbor, citing a “disproportionately large number of cases of illegal crossings” in the area. Since the start of the year, Latvian authorities have registered nearly 6,000 attempts to illegally cross the Belarusian border.

The migration crisis in the region first erupted in 2021, when Belarus emerged as a major transit point for Middle Eastern refugees trying to reach the EU. While the turmoil mainly affected Poland, it also spilled over to Latvia and Lithuania. However, officials in Minsk have repeatedly denied accusations of helping to increase the flow of migrants.

In introducing enhanced security measures at the border, Latvia follows the example of Poland, which said last week it would deploy 10,000 troops along its boundary with Belarus. Warsaw also cited migration pressure as well as alleged infiltration efforts by operatives working for the Russian defense contractor Wagner Group. In addition, earlier this month Poland claimed that two Belarusian helicopters violated its airspace, a charge Minsk has vehemently denied.

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