Exclusive: Lukashenko Using Migrants as ‘Siege’ Weapons to ‘Save His Skin’, Says Lithuanian MP

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko gives a speech during a military parade to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, Minsk, May 9, 2020. (Photo by Sergei GAPON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SERGEI GAPON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
SERGEI GAPON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is an illegitimate leader who is attempting to cling on to power through using migrants as “siege” weapons against Europe to “save his skin”, a Lithuanian MP has told Breitbart News.

Lukashenko, a former Soviet farm boss, who has been in control of Belarus since 1994, has seen his leadership thrown into doubt after mass protests were held throughout the country following last year’s election, which was widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the iron-fisted authoritarian.

The struggles for the communist-style dictator have only mounted, with his regime suffering under painful sanctions from the European Union, which were imposed after a flight carrying a dissident journalist was forced to land in Belarus by a MiG-29 fighter jet earlier this year. More sanctions from the EU are expected to be implemented against Belarussian companies next month in response to the migrant crisis, which is believed to have been manufactured by the Lukashenko regime to “blackmail” the political bloc.

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart London, Lithuanian MP Dovilė Šakalienė said that while the crisis at the Polish border has garnered more international attention, the Lukashenko regime continues to put pressure on Lithuania by attempting to “push” migrants across the EU member state and NATO ally’s border.

Šakalienė said that the Belarussian military and border officials employ different tactics on the Lithuanian border, taking multiple smaller groups of five to seven migrants at different locations on the border simultaneously in order to exhaust Lithuanian forces.

“These are not the tactics of attack, but they are tactics of siege,” the MP said.

Belarus is conducting a “hybrid attack where people are smuggled into the country, imported like objects,” Šakalienė said, “so we are protecting the borders of NATO and the EU from the unpredictable, very hostile dictator, who has instrumentalized migration as a means of political war.”

The Lithuanian lawmaker said that Lukashenko “is not a head of state, he is a self-assumed dictator.”

Šakalienė said that it is difficult to negotiate or deal with the “unpredictable and dangerous” Belarussian strongman, saying that his actions are becoming more erratic and that because “saving his own skin is his top priority, he is willing to do anything.”

The MP said that Lukashenko has likely realised that “his people don’t want him anymore” and that hopefully there will be some sort of compromise within Belarus to “mummify” him into a position on some “self-created council” and allow free and fair elections to take place.

Lukashenko, for his part, has as of late attempted to portray himself as a humanitarian defender of migrants, claiming that Slavs have “big hearts” while seemingly excusing his own forces ferrying migrants to border regions.

In a televised speech in front of a group of migrants at the border with Poland on Friday, the Belarussian dictator told the migrants that they have a “right” to enter into the European Union and promised to aid them to achieve their “dream”.

Many of the mostly Middle Eastern migrants were allegedly tricked by Lukashenko apparatchiks who gave the migrants false promises about being granted free passage to Germany if they reached Belarus, leaving thousands stranded in the cold at the Polish border, a plight that Lukashenko then attempted to use to pressure Germany into taking the migrants in.

Šakalienė told Breitbart that she led efforts in the Lithuanian parliament to send supplies, such as thermal blankets and sleeping bags, shoes and socks, and thermoses full of hot water to the migrants.

“We don’t want these people to get cold, to freeze to death, but we understand that unfortunately Mr Lukashenko is still fully controlling the stream of migrants, shipping them to the border and throwing them at us like live shields.”

“We may not look that intimidating, but we are persistent and we have fully informed the migrants that they cannot cross… we can’t take any more, it’s simply impossible,” she said, noting that her small country with a population of less than three million has already seen over 4,000 migrants cross the border with Belarus this year.

Over the past month, violent altercations have been seen at the border between Poland and Belarus, with migrants seen hurling stones and even stun grenades at Polish soldiers and border officials, injuring seven in one such instance. In order to fend off the onslaught, the Poles used water cannons to push the migrants back.

“I believe they are trying to provoke a military conflict with Poland, attacking the parts of the border where defences have been put up, with migrants attacking the soldiers and officers in order to create dramatic visuals in the eyes of the media and to make propaganda videos,” Šakalienė said.

“They are trying to show that poor migrants are trying to go through these ‘horrible’ fences and barriers erected by the European Union,” she added.

The Lithuanian MP said that there need to be more “strict and focussed international sanctions” imposed on Lukashenko’s inner circle as well as businesses that have been “instrumental in implementing the human smuggling.”

“We have to hit what hurts because he is demolishing the lives of thousands of people,” she said.

Šakalienė went on to say that there are “serious grounds” for triggering Article 4 of the NATO convention, which states that “Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened.”

Currently, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and the other Baltic states are in talks surrounding the possible triggering of the article, which has only been done four times in the history of NATO and is only one step away from the possibility of armed conflict if Article 5 is invoked. Šakalienė said that it would be crucial for all states to agree to such an act in order to represent the full “weight” of the situation.

“If this siege is going to continue and intensity, and if our borders are going to be attacked again and again in multiple spots” it would be possible for something akin to the Russian invasion of Crimea to occur in one of the Baltic states, she warned.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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