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Russia and Belarus have set up an illegal migration channel to European countries through the Baltic States. There is a possibility that among the migrants trafficked are figures affiliated with terrorist organizations.
The organizers behind the effort thoroughly instruct migrants originating from Asian and African countries before they penetrate Lithuania’s border from neighboring Belarus.
That’s according to Lithuania’s defense chief Arvydas Anušauskas who spoke on the air of the national LRT Radio. Illegal migrants, Anušauskas says, testify that someone sporting camo outfits tells them of the need to destroy their passports, how to act during interrogations, what to say, and what to keep silent about.
According to the minister, Lithuania has identified some of the organizers of the trafficking channel. “Some of the organizers and performers, enterprises and organizations participating in this enjoy the patronage of Belarusian authorities. According to our assessment, the officials of the Belavia air carrier, the KGB, Vneshintourist, and border troops of Belarus are involved in the process.
There is no doubt that the wave of illegal migration is only a pretext for Minsk, as well as more than an asymmetric response of Belarus to the sanctions imposed by the EU in response to persecution of the opposition forces. Minsk has no capacity to independently pursue such an eloquent mission. Such missions require operational presence in the countries of migrants’ origin to set up either their trafficking to Europe or an uncontrolled channel for their penetration of the Russian border, which isn’t the case.
Most probably, the Belarusian KGB is only responsible for instructing and trafficking illegal migrants to Lithuania. However, the effort to initially bring them to Belarus has been organized by the Russian special services – military intelligence, to be precise. Taking into account the identities of those already detained on crossing the Belarus-Lithuania border, it’s highly likely that in this wayMoscow, with Minsk’s help, works to infiltrate into Europe members of terrorist groups tasked with building sleeping cells across the EU.
Exploiting migration as a tool of hybrid warfarehas already been worked out by Russia in Syria, by stimulating and organizing the trafficking of refugees to the EU to destabilize member states and strengthen positions ultra-right forces effectively cooperating with the Kremlin.
Also, a similar situation was observed in 2015, when Russian migrants traveled to neighboring countries of Finland and Norway.
Since year-start, a total of 1,732 illegal immigrants, mainly from Asian countries, have been detained at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, which is 21.4 times more than throughout 2020. It’s unlikely that Lithuania is their final destination. Most likely, once they cross the border, they are tasked to move further westwards.
It’s also unlikely that the Belarusian special services are in fact aware of these tasks set by the Russian handlers of the operation. Thus, it’s possible that the groups that are currently illegally crossing the border with Lithuania may further come into contact with the migrants earlier deployed by Russia to Europe in 2016-2017 to legalize them in the EU’s Western part.
As per EU Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson, illegal migrants seeking to get into EU through Lithuania first arrive in Minsk for EUR 15,000-17,000, mainly from Istanbul and Baghdad, carried by Belavia direct commercial flights, or transfer through Moscow from Middle East and Africa. Thus, if the Belarusian and Russian special services take part in trafficking migrants to Europe, in 2021 they must have already made some EUR 26 million on the effort. However, only those members of migrant groups pay traffickers who are part of the “commercial quota,” providing a relevant cover for those specially instructed by handlers from special services.