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Move would undermine years of free movement between Russia and one of its most compliant neighbors.12 June 2018
Border security became an issue early last year when Minsk introduced a five-day visa-free policy for citizens of 80 countries, European Union countries included.
Russian then started spot checks of cars and passports at the border, citing security concerns, RFE/RL reports. Belarus would restore border controls if those checks continue, Lukashenka said.
After years of frigid relations with the EU, Lukashenka began softening his policies toward the Belarusian opposition after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Officials said they were looking into extending the visa-free stay to 15 days, according to RFE.
One rationale for the border checks was Moscow’s worry that banned Ukrainian goods could enter the country indirectly through Belarus, energy and foreign policy analyst Nicholas Trickett writes in The Diplomat.
Moscow was also concerned that Westerners might enter Belarus visa-free, then cross the low-security border into Russia, Trickett says.
As quoted by BelTa, Lukashenka said on 1 June, “If they want to close the border, they may go ahead. If they close it we should impose border control, too."
Lukashenka explained that he was waiting for Moscow to decide on the policy before making any changes, saying, “These things are not rushed.”
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