President Alexander Lukashenko reportedly ordered the partial closure of Belarus' borders with Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania on Thursday, October 29, amid a review of the government's security strategy. The extent of the new restrictions was not clear from Lukashenko's announcement, in which he claimed they had been introduced to reduce the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). However, Polish and Lithuanian authorities stated that foreign nationals had been barred from entering Belarus via their border crossings since 16:00 (local time), with only Belarusian nationals and freight traffic being permitted to cross the border. Lithuanian guards later reported that vehicles had also been prevented from crossing the border from the Belarus side.
The new restrictions came as Lukashenko announced a cabinet reshuffle focused around security on Thursday, with the interior minister being replaced and three new presidential aides assigned to oversee security in areas along the country's western borders.
Continued disruptions to overland travel into Belarus are likely in the medium term, with a realistic possibility of an increased security presence along the border.
Protests have been taking place throughout Belarus since Lukashenko was declared the winner of the country's August 9 presidential election in a result which opposition groups denounced as fraudulent. The large-scale protests and increased political tensions have seen security forces blocking access to a number of cities as clashes with protesters were reported. Security forces have deployed tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, batons, and stun grenades in attempts to disperse crowds.
Those scheduled to travel to Belarus should monitor developments regarding the increased border restrictions and review their travel itineraries accordingly. Travelers in the country should avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments, and refrain from discussing politically sensitive topics in public or on social media.
Copyright and Disclaimer