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VILNIUS -A dozen Belarusian officers in riot gear illegally crossed into Lithuanian territory on Tuesday while pushing a group of 35 Iraqi migrants over the border, Lithuania's border guard service said.
Lithuania, a member of the European Union, accuses Belarus of deliberately flying in Iraqi migrants to Minsk and then ferrying them over the border to claim asylum as retaliation for sanctions imposed by the EU on the former Soviet republic.
"The officers left the territory after several minutes, after being told repeatedly by Lithuanian border guards they had violated the border," said border guard service spokesperson Rokas Pukinskas.
Lithuania says a total of 4,124 people have crossed into its territory illegally so far this year, mostly in July, though only 14 entered between Aug. 5 and 16, as Lithuania began pushing back the migrants entering from Belarus.
A video of Tuesday's incident near Dieveniskes village, released by Vilnius, shows a group of migrants coming through high grass towards Lithuanian border guards, with Belarusian officers in riot gear standing in a line behind them.
"Let the woman through, but not men", a Lithuanian border guard is heard saying to another, before a scuffle as the migrants try to get past the border guards.
The video then shows the Belarusian officers standing several meters closer, having crossed a ditch which the Lithuanian border guards said marks the border.
Lithuania will increase its border patrols in response to the incident, the interior ministry said in a separate statement on Tuesday.
Belarus's border committee earlier released video of the incident filmed from its side, which does not show the officers in riot gear.
"The Lithuanian border guards use physical force to push migrants into Belarus," it said, adding that the group had included a pregnant woman.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said his country will no longer stop the flow of migrants into the EU due to the sanctions imposed over his crackdown on protesters and over the arrest of a dissident journalist after a Ryanair plane was forced to land in Minsk.
Earlier on Tuesday Lithuanian border guard chief Rustamas Liubajevas said the situation on the border with Belarus remained tense.
About a dozen migrants from Belarus were prevented from entering Lithuania both on Saturday and on Sunday, and about 50 migrants were turned back on the border on Monday, the service said.
"From time to time we hear shooting on the Belarus side. Many times, Belarus border guards are blocking the way of migrants back to Belarus," said Liubajevas. "They are actively pushing irregular migrants to the Lithuanian side." REUTERS