The Biden administration has issued a strong advisory urging U.S. citizens currently in Belarus to leave the country immediately due to escalating security concerns.
This travel warning, issued on Monday, August 21 comes as neighboring countries Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland have heightened security measures along their borders as reported by The Hill.
These measures are in response to apprehensions about the presence of Russian Wagner mercenary forces that have sought refuge in Belarus.
The State Department’s warning emphasizes the urgency of the situation, urging American citizens to depart from Belarus promptly.
The country has been categorized as a Level 4 risk, signifying the highest security alert.
This classification is due to a combination of factors that pose significant risks to travelers, including the ongoing facilitation of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, the buildup of Russian military forces within Belarus, arbitrary enforcement of local laws, potential civil unrest, the risk of detention, and the limited capacity of the U.S. Embassy to assist citizens within or traveling to Belarus.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s long-standing leader often referred to as “Europe’s last dictator,” has drawn international condemnation for his role in facilitating Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine.
The U.S. has imposed sanctions against Lukashenko for his involvement in human rights abuses and political oppression, particularly following the contested 2020 election.
The situation within Belarus has led to a downsizing of the U.S. mission in the country, with the embassy primarily focused on providing emergency services to American citizens.
Lukashenko’s decision to welcome Wagner forces in collaboration with Putin, which brought an end to the mercenary group’s short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin, has sparked concerns among NATO-member nations along the Belarusian border.
Last week, Lithuania closed two of its six border crossings with Belarus, prompting the U.S. State Department to advise American citizens to utilize the remaining open border crossings.
However, there is a possibility that more border closures may occur in the future, as the governments of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have indicated.
Both Poland and Latvia have increased their troop presence along their borders with Belarus due to mounting security concerns.