Lithuania to fence first 110 km of Belarus border by April

FILE PHOTO: A razor wire barrier is installed on border with Belarus in Druskininkai, Lithuania July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

(Corrects name of military base to Adazi, not Ainazi)

ADAZI MILITARY BASE, Latvia (Reuters) - The Lithuanian government said on Monday work would start this month on the first section of fence along the Belarus border aimed at keeping out migrants, a 110 km (70 miles) stretch topped with razor wire that should be finished by April.

More than 4,100 migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, have entered Lithuania this year, prompting a dispute between the European Union and Belarus.

The EU accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of flying in migrants and sending them over the border in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk following a crackdown on the political opposition.

The Lithuanian government said it had handed the job of building the first section of the border fence to state-owned power and gas grid company EPSO-G, at a cost of 36 million euros.

It will have razor wire on top and a height of 4 meters, an EPSO-G spokesman said. Six additional coils of razor wire will be arranged in a pyramid and placed between the border and the fence.

The remaining 400 km (240 miles) of the planned structure will be finished by September 2022, with parts marked by rivers and lakes not being fenced. The border stretches for 670 km (420 miles).

EU members Poland and Latvia have also seen an increase in migrant arrivals this year and all three countries have resorted to pushing migrants back into Belarus since August, reducing their numbers drastically.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas on Monday accused Russia, a major Belarus ally, of working with Belarus to create the crisis.

"We are convinced that, from the very beginning, Belarus has coordinated its actions with Russia", he told reporters in Latvia's Adazi military base after meetings with his Baltic and Polish counterparts.

(Reporting by Janis Laizans in Adazi and Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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