Tag Archives: Lithuania

Lithuania: letter “Z” ban

Brussels 20.04.2022 The Parliament of Lithuania voted to ban public displays of the letter “Z”, the black and orange ribbon of St George, and other symbols seen as expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The vote took place on Tuesday, April 19.

Russian military vehicles in Ukraine are prominently marked with the letter “Z”, and it has started appearing on social media and on garments elsewhere in support of the Russian army.

Meanwhile the ribbon of St.George, first introduced as an honour by Catherine the Great, has gained significance in the Russian-speaking sphere since separatists in eastern Ukraine adopted it as a symbol of their support for Russia in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent the troops into Ukraine on what he calls a “special military operation” to “de-militarise and de-nazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

The Lithuanian decision occurs after similar bans in Latvia and Moldova. Germany was also considering such a ban. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has previously called for a universal ban of the political use of the letter “Z,” saying it signified “Russian war crimes, bombed out cities, thousands of murdered Ukrainians.”

China: EU committed to support Lithuania

Brussels 08.12.2021 “The EU has been informed that Lithuanian shipments are not being cleared through the Chinese customs and that import applications from Lithuania are being rejected. We are in close contact with the Lithuanian government and are gathering information via the EU Delegation in Beijing in a timely manner” reads the Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on China’s measures against Lithuania. (Image: illustration, China)

“We are also reaching out to the Chinese authorities to rapidly clarify the situation”.

“Unity and solidarity within the EU remain key to upholding our interests and our values in our relations with all countries. The EU is ready to stand up against all types of political pressure and coercive measures applied against any Member State. The development of China’s bilateral relations with individual EU Member States has an impact on overall EU-China relations.

“If the information received were to be confirmed, the EU would also assess the compatibility of China’s action with its obligations under the World Trade Organisation.

“The EU remains committed to its One China Policy and recognises the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of China. Within the framework of this long-established policy, the EU will pursue cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan in areas of common interest”.

Lithuania forces migrants back to Belarus

Brussels 30.10.2021 Lithuanian border guards effectively performed return of more than 180 migrants from Asian and African countries in the past days, forcing them back into Belarus, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry’s Border Guard Service said in a statement on Friday, October 29.

“As many as 186 illegal migrants tried to enter several of Lithuania’s border districts, the highest number since August 4. The offenders were forced back into Belarus,” the statement reads.

According to the border service, Lithuanian border guards did not use special military equipment and weapons.

Over 4,000 illegal migrants have been detained on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border since the beginning of the year, 50 times more than in 2020.

Vilnius believes that the migration crisis was triggered by Minsk and has denounced it as a hybrid attack on Lithuania in retaliation for its policy of supporting the Belarusian opposition.

Meanwhile amid an illegitimate state of emergency and a wider political stand-off with the Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko regime, Poland is attempting to legalise migrants’ pushbacks (refoulement) in clear breach of European and international law but with the alarming support and emulation of various Member States, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said in a statement today.

On October 14, the Polish parliament passed a law enabling border guards to immediately send back migrants who crossed the border irregularly, allowing for their asylum applications to be refused without examination and banning them from the country “for between six months and three years”.

Belarus: Borrell declaration on migrants

Brussels 30.07.2021 “The instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees is utterly unacceptable. Using human beings in need to advance political goals violates fundamental European values and principles. Accordingly, the EU and its member states condemn the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees by the Belarusian regime” reads the Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the European Union on the instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees by the regime.

“The EU and its member states will address the ongoing surge in irregular crossings into the EU from Belarus to preserve the integrity of its external border. In line with its gradual approach, the EU will consider the possibility of restrictive measures targeted at migrants’ smugglers abusing human rights or those otherwise involved in trafficking in human beings.

“The EU and its member states remain determined to effectively manage migratory flows in order to protect the EU’s external borders. People who have no right to stay in the EU shall be returned. In this context, the EU and its member states will take all necessary measures in accordance with EU and international law.

“The EU and its member states, in solidarity, already increased their support, including through the deployment of the FRONTEX rapid border intervention and additional technical assistance, and are ready to strengthen it even further. Member states will swiftly provide the support necessary to ensure the immediate deployment of the relevant teams and assets.

“We will continue to implement our external migration policy. We will work to further strengthen EU return capacities as part of a comprehensive approach, including through dialogues and partnerships with the countries of origin and transit”.

Lukashenko regime self-isolates

“The Belarusian authorities ordered Head of Mission at the Embassy of Lithuania in Minsk and the Consul General in Hrodna to leave the country by 11 July, drastically limiting Vilnius’ diplomatic presence in the country” reads the statement by the spokesperson on limiting the diplomatic presence of Lithuania. (Image:Viktar Babaryka)

“With this, the Lukashenko regime is closing further diplomatic channels of communication. By also reducing the consular staff of EU member states’ diplomatic missions, the regime limits the opportunities for the Belarusians to travel to the EU. Already last October, at the request of the regime, the Lithuanian and Polish Ambassadors left the country, and in May this year the entire staff of Latvia’s embassy in Minsk was ordered to leave. Most recently, the Belarusian authorities asked the Head of the EU Delegation in Minsk to return to Brussels for consultations.

“By these actions, the regime further isolates itself. Such decisions are also detrimental to Belarus and its population. Keeping diplomatic channels of communication open in time of difficulties is crucial. The EU calls on the Belarusian authorities to allow full presence of the EU’s and it Member States’ diplomatic missions to allow diplomacy to work”.

EU regrets Lukashenko demands

“The demand of the Belarusian authorities that Poland and Lithuania withdraw their ambassadors and significantly reduce their diplomatic representations in Minsk is unfounded and regrettable. It goes against the logic of dialogue and will only further isolate the authorities in Minsk” reads the statement of the EU lead spokesperson.

“Attempts by the Belarusian authorities to target certain EU Member States will not succeed in weakening EU unity, which was clearly reaffirmed by the European Council on 1 October when all EU Member States called on the Belarusian authorities to end violence and repression, release all detainees and political prisoners, respect media freedom and civil society, and start an inclusive national dialogue” 

“The EU continues to support the democratic right of the Belarusian people to elect their President through new free and fair elections, without external interference” the statement concludes.

Belarus authorities announced sanctions against the European Union on October 2 in retaliation to restrictive measures agreed by European leaders hours before over the sham presidential election.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s statement accused the EU of “striving towards the deterioration of relations with us” and imposed its own set of sanctions against the bloc.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on October 2 he was sure the problems that had emerged in Belarus after the presidential elections would be settled soon, the Kremlin press service said after his telephone conversation with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko.

“The presidents also discussed various aspects of the post-election situation in Belarus in the context of the ongoing attempts of outside interference. Confidence was expressed that the current problems will soon be settled,” the press service said, adding that the telephone conversation was initiated by the Belarusian side.

Tikhanovskaya in exile in Lithuania

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,37, has taken a “very difficult decision” to leave the country, after disputing an election she claimed was rigged.

Ms Tikhanovskaya said she did it for her children as protests continued for a second night.

In exile but “safe” in Lithuania, according to the country’s foreign minister.

The announced election results gave President Alexander Lukashenko 80% of the vote, but there have been widespread claims of fraud, and foul play with ballots.

Violent clashes between police and protesters have broken out over the two nights since the election was held, and there have been numerous reports of police brutality.

Ms Tikhanovskaya has united and galvanised the opposition, which presented a stronger than ever challenge to Lukashenko 26 years long presidency. Dabbed in free media as «Last Dictator» in Europe, he has established an autocratic rule after the collapse of the USSR.
The spontaneous opposition leadere announced her candidacy replacing her husband, a political blogger, who was arrested and prevented from registering for the vote.

But the 65-year-old president, who has ruled the former Soviet country since 1994, has described opposition supporters as a flock of “sheep” manipulated from abroad.

Erdogan blocks NATO Baltic advancement

Turkey announced it will oppose NATO’s plans for enhancing defence of three Baltic countries if the Alliance does not recognize militant groups that Ankara defines as terrorist, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday, ahead of a NATO alliance summit in London.

Relations between Turkey and its NATO allies have been strained over a number of issues, ranging from Ankara’s decision to purchase Russian air defense systems S-400  to policy vis-à-vis Syria. Several NATO members condemned Turkey’s decision to launch an offensive into northeastern Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Ankara has refused to back NATO defense plan for the Baltics and Poland until it receives more support for its battle with the YPG, which it assesses as a terrorist organization.

MEPs defend Lithuanian judges

Russia should stop prosecuting Lithuanian judges and EU countries should refuse any legal assistance, says European Parliament.

In the text adopted by 493 votes in favour, 43 against and 86 abstentions on November 28 MEPs call on Russia to end the “politically motivated” prosecution of Lithuanian judges and prosecutors who found 67 Russian, Belarussian and Ukrainian citizens guilty of war crimes against Lithuania, following the events of 13 January 1991 in Vilnius.

Parliament denounces Russia’s actions as “unacceptable external influence”, “politically motivated” and a “violation of fundamental legal values”, especially the independence of judiciary.

MEPs ask all member states to refuse the transfer of any personal data to Russia that could be used in criminal proceedings against Lithuanian judges as well as to refuse Russia’s requests for related legal assistance. EU countries and Interpol should also ignore all international arrest warrants against the accused Lithuanian officials”, MEPs say.

They also call for EU member states to be more consistent in their policies towards Russia.

On 13 January 1991, following Lithuania’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, fourteen peaceful civilians were killed and nearly 800 wounded during a crackdown by Soviet troops on the Vilnius TV tower.

In March 2019, a Lithuanian Court issued a ruling on this act of aggression against Lithuania by finding 67 people, including the then Defence minister and KGB chief of the Soviet Union, guilty of war crimes.

Russia did not respond to the Lithuanian judiciary’s request for cooperation. The majority of those accused were therefore put on trial in absentia. In 2018, Russia retaliated by starting a criminal case against the Lithuanian judges, prosecutors and investigators involved in investigating the tragic events on 13 January 1991 in Vilnius.

Israel strengthens ties with Baltic Republics

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his visit in Lithuania, saying he hoped to deepen ties with eastern EU nations as Brussels blasted Israel’s plans for fresh settlements in the West Bank.

Dozens of Pro-Palestinian activists waved Palestinian flags and chanted that Netanyahu was “not welcome” while railing against Lithuania‘s ties with Israel outside government buildings in the capital Vilnius, where he held talks with his Lithuanian counterpart Saulius Skvernelis.

Netanyahu thanked Skvernelis for the “strong position you’ve taken in forums of the EU on behalf of truth, on behalf of Israel, on behalf of decency“.

Israel is often mistreated by the EU in Brussels, there are many distortions that are levelled at us, and it is refreshing to see that you take a stand of clarity, of truth and of courage, and we discussed how that can be expanded,Netanyahu added.

Israel approved plans for more than 1,000 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank prompting EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic to say that the bloc was “strongly opposed” to Israel’s “illegal” settlement policy, calling it “an obstacle to peace”.

The settlements “would further jeopardise the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state,”  Kocijancic continued.

Netanyahu said he wanted “to achieve a balance in the European Union’s not always friendly relations with Israel” ahead of the the first-ever visit by an Israeli premier to Lithuania.

Israeli PM will meet the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in Vilnius  during the visit, which is set to last until Sunday, August 26.

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