Belarus strengthens border controls with Russia
Minsk has responded to Russia’s actions aiming to reduce transparency of the Russo-Belarusian border with the strengthening of the border control. On the one hand, these actions correspond to national interests, but on the other, could create tension among inhabitants of the Belarusian bordering regions.
The Russian Federal Security Service has publicly confirmed the actual ban on the movement of third-country nationals through the Belarusian-Russian land border due to incoordination between Russia and Belarus of the entry, exit and stay of third-country nationals. However, the real reason behind Russia’s actions is an attempt to force Minsk to create a single visa space, which in practice would mean that Belarus would lose the right to determine the rules of entry and stay of foreigners independently.
The Belarusian border agency has refrained from public response to Russia’s statements, which, however, does not mean they are inactive. For instance, on November 2nd, 2017 Belarusian border guards prevented an attempt to smuggle ferrous metal scrap in the Chechersk district of the Gomel region, 300 meters from the border with Russia. On November 3rd, 2017 Belarusian border guards stopped illegal imports of goods from Russia to Belarus in the Dobrush district bordering Russia. On the same day, Gomel border guards curbed an attempt to import 120 kg of non-smoker tobacco to Belarus some 12 km from the Russian border.
Minsk would not yield to the pressure from Moscow. It is ready to respond to Russia’s deployment of border guards at the border with Belarus. However, Belarus’ response requires additional financial and organisational efforts. Moreover, high dependence of the inhabitants in the bordering regions on trade and other economic relations (including legal ties), would make a much bigger problem. Any interference with these relations could elevate social tension in the bordering regions and boost protest moods among local residents, who often sympathise with Vladimir Putin and, to a large extent, disapprove Lukashenka.