The Czech Republic has become the first EU member state to contribute funds for Lithuania to build a barrier along its border with Belarus amid a surge in migration and upcoming Russian-led military exercises.
The Czech donation, worth half a million euros, comes at a time when Lithuania is lobbying the EU to finance the three-meter high fence, which would stretch for more than 500 km at a cost of about 152 million euros.
The EU has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of flying in migrants from the Middle East and sending them to the EU in retaliation for sanctions imposed on his country over human rights abuses.
“It stands to reason that we need to better protect the EU’s external borders and we should fully support those member states, including Lithuania, which are ready to do their job and protect the external border”, Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said in Vilnius on Tuesday, announcing the donation of 13.5 million Czech crowns (530,000 euros).
“Lukashenko’s brazen actions call for additional sanctions against the Belarussian regime. He continues to weaponize illegal migration as a means to blackmail Lithuania and by extension, the EU,” said Kulhanek. “He has to be stopped.”
The move comes after Lithuania asked fellow EU countries and the bloc’s border agency Frontex for assistance.
In August, the EU Commission pledged 12 million euros to Lithuania, and neighboring Estonia while Ukraine has sent hundreds of kilometers of barbed wire to the country.
Lithuania has received more than 4,000 migrants this year, compared to 81 the previous year. Poland and Latvia have also seen increased migrant numbers from Belarus.
Poland declared an emergency in two regions bordering Belarus on Thursday, following an increase in illegal migration that Warsaw has blamed on its neighbor and in the build-up to this week’s Russia-Belarus “Zapad-2021” drills.