“Russian-speaking people are an integral and organic part of the Lithuanian society and we trust their immunity for manipulations and loyalty with their home country”

Interview with Algirdas Butkevičius, prime minister of Lithuania

Why is so important to ban soviet symbols in Lithuania 20 years after the fall of USSR?

Lithuania has banned the display of both Nazi and Soviet symbols because these are the reminders of the criminal regimes responsible for the harsh repressions and deaths of millions of people in Europe. It would be difficult to find a family in Lithuania which would not be affected by the outrages of both occupant regimes. Display of these symbols would humiliate the remembrance of those who died in the independence fights.

NATO has increased its activity in the Baltics. Why was this necessary?

Lithuania, as well as other Allies in the region, have been constantly building its welfare on the grounds of NATO‘s security guaranties. Russia‘s aggression in Georgia in 2008 and currently in Ukraine is a sad reminder how the situation could change. Russian military activities in its Western military district remain very intense. We notice militarization near our borders, modernization of Russian armed forces, intensive large-scale activities including with no or very little warning time, lack of transparency, etc. In this context full and comprehensive implementations of NATO Wales Summit decisions remains our key priority. Baltic nations seek cooperation with the allies to increase our defence capabilities and security of the region.

Are the sanctions against Russia working?

Despite the Russian rhetoric that Western sanctions do not serve its purpose and instead of helping to solve the conflict in Ukraine it only pushes Russia and the West into a “New Cold War”, the objective reality shows Russian economy is largely affected by the restrictions. EU sanctions are designed so that it would affect only the top decision makers directly or indirectly responsible for the aggression in Ukraine. Also, a preventive aspect of the sanctions, is very important.

Are the events in Ukraine a reason to worry for other neighbours like the Baltic countries?

I would say Russian aggression against Ukraine is a reason not only for its neighbours, but also for the whole international society to stay alerted. Even more — to assume responsibility resolving conflict fully respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Today Russia continues to breach international norms and principles and undermine universal values. Combination of Russian policy concepts and military doctrines, use of military force coupled with extensive propaganda as well as various other tools like energy, cyber, targeted economic measures and intelligence, pose threat to the whole of European and Transatlantic community. Being a full-fledged member of NATO and EU for over 10 years already, we feel certain knowing that we do not stand alone. Together with our partners Lithuania already took measures to ensure security of our people.

Is the Russian minority is so successfully integrated in Lithuania?

Ever since XI-XVIII centuries the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was an example of ethnic and religious tolerance. Various national minorities co-lived here in peace and enjoying favorable attitude from the government and locals. The same approach Lithuania follows today. Even thoughRussian ethnic minority in Lithuania is not very large, around 5 % of total population, these people, just like any other national minority, after restoration of independence became Lithuanian citizens and enjoy fully all civil rights on equal basis with Lithuanians. We have kindergartens and schools teaching in different national languages, theaters, cultural centers, magazines, radio and TV channels. Lithuania ensure all necessary conditions to both preserve their own culture and to integrate smoothly and naturally with our society.

Russian-speaking people are an integral and organic part of the Lithuanian society and we trust their immunity for manipulations and loyalty with their home country.

Some quotes of this interview were published in ElMundo.es.

Read here, in Spanish, the story Miedo a los ‘hombres de verde’ junto a la frontera rusa

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