Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite says that Russia, in an effort to maintain influence over territories that were once part of the Soviet Union, has set out to make the Baltic states “unreliable partners” for NATO and the European Union.
In an interview with Germany’s Focus magazine, Dalia Grybauskaite said that according to her sources, there have been Russian offers to reduce oil and gas prices for Estonia and Latvia, if they were to terminate their NATO membership.
According to Grybauskaite, the offer was part of a broader effort by Moscow to discredit the Baltic states as tensions between Russia and the West escalate over Ukraine, Voice of America reports.
In the interview, Grybauskaite compared Russian president Vladimir Putin with the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
“[Putin] plays the nationality card as a pretext for military conquest,” said Grybauskaite, adding that " this is exactly what Stalin and Hitler did. Such comparisons are right on the mark.”
Not only Ukraine, but also the Baltic states and Poland have been victims of Russian aggression, she said.
Russia has repeatedly cited a need to protect ethnic Russians or Russian speakers in its 2008 conflict with Georgia and, currently, with Ukraine.
Speaking about Putin in general, Grybauskaite, who was just elected to a second term, described him as a very calculated man – one who does not necessarily stick to his promises. And, if he does, she said, then only if it serves his interests.
Russian agents have reportedly attempted to recruit veterans of the French Foreign Legion to fight on the side pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, offering them thousands of euros a month for their services.
According to Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform, former legionnaires working for various defense contractors were approached by Russian middlemen at the international armament and military technology expo Eurosatory-2014 outside Paris earlier this month.
“They promised to fully equip, arm and transport fighters to the battlefield, offering them salaries of up to 10,000 euros,” Ukrinform quoted one unnamed former legionnaire as saying.
According to the veteran, the Russians were particularly interested in legionnaires of Slavic backgrounds – Russians, Ukrainians, Belorusians, Moldovans and men from the former Yugoslavia – especially if ideologically they considered themselves pro-Russian.
The former legionnaire surmised that recruiting such fighters had a dual purpose for Russia. Not only would they bolster the ranks of Moscow-backed militants, but in the case of their demise they could be used for propaganda purposes as Russia could easily claim that they were foreign mercenaries sent by the West to on the side of Ukrainian troops.
Ukrinform quoted another unnamed former legionnaire as saying that he knew of no veteran who accepted the Russians’ offer.