Police used force late on Monday to clear protesters blocking access to the Rudninkai military training ground in southeastern Lithuania where the authorities are planning to set up a tent camp for migrants.
Kelio blokavimas prie Rūdninkų poligono.
Kelio blokavimas prie Rūdninkų poligono.
© Info TV

Several dozen people tried to block the road leading to the training ground to prevent trucks carrying items for the tent camp from passing through.

When police, who had been watching the protest, asked protesters to clear the road, some of them refused to do so. A group of around ten officers then pushed them off the road amid cries of "shame" and "people are being beaten".

Police insist they did not use excessive force, saying that the protesters were forced off after disobeying repeated orders to clear the road.

Police spokesman Ramunas Matonis told BNS that eight people were detained for refusing to obey lawful orders.

Shortly afterwards, protesters formed a human chain in front of the gates of the training area, but it was broken by riot police who arrived in a few minutes, according to a BNS reporter at the scene.

Most protesters gradually dispersed, but several of them stayed nearby.

Matonis said the Public Security Service's officers guarding the training area in Salcininkai District after the protest had to use tear gas to force the remaining protesters away, but added that he did not know the details of the incident.

'Anti-state activity'

The government is looking for places to accommodate migrants as Lithuania has been facing an unprecedented influx of irregular migration in recent months.

This year so far, over 2,700 migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have been detained after illegally crossing into the country from Belarus.

However, some attempts to accommodate migrants in different locations of the country have met with active resistance.

Last week, residents of Dieveniskes, a small town in Salcininkai District, prevented the authorities from starting to build a fence around a former school dormitory where migrants were to be accommodated, saying they were concerned about the safety of children attending a nearby school.

Protesters in Rudninkai also said that they were worried about their safety and that they did not understand why Lithuania should accept irregular arrivals.

"For some reason, our state wants to give them [migrants] asylum, even though they violated our Constitution, even though they came to Lithuania illegally," Darius, a 28-year-old protester, told BNS.

Lina Laurinaityte-Grigiene, the spokeswoman to Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, said that attempts to disrupt the construction of a tent camp in the Rudninkai training area could be linked to "anti-state activity", dismissing safety fears as unfounded.

"These tents are being set up at the Public Security Service's training ground. This is a special purpose facility; the nearest settlement is 3.5 kilometers away," she told BNS.

In an interview with the Delfi news website, Valdemar Tomasevski, the leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, distanced himself from the Rudninkai protest which he called a provocation.

Lithuania's authorities are planning to accommodate up to 1,500 migrants in the training area.

Lithuania has declared a state-level emergency situation due to the migration crisis.

Vilnius says the migration influx is an organized campaign by the Belarusian regime against Lithuania.

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