VILNIUS – Approval of Russia’s war in Ukraine by the head of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood, an association founded by Algirdas Paleckis, a controversial Lithuanian figure convicted for spying for Russia, and her calls for Lithuania to develop relations with a country promoting terrorism are totally incompatible with the official stance of Lithuania, which condemns Russia’s war against Ukraine, and such statements cause harm to Lithuania’s public interests, a prosecutor has said.
“The objectives stated in the statutes [of the association] are purely formal while the statements made on Russian television breach the Constitution and harm the state. The true objectives of establishing the association are illegal and contrary to public policy, hence the association cannot function and shall be deemed as established illegally,” Prosecutor Sigita Vasiliauskiene of the Prosecutor General's Office said during a hearing at Vilnius District Chamber of the District Court of Vilnius Region on Wednesday.
The court commenced legal proceedings on the merits in a civil suit over the Forum’s liquidation on Wednesday.
The Prosecutor General's Office has said that it asks to liquidate the association in view of the statements made by its head as well as the actions of the association’s members related to their visits to Russia.
Erika Svencioniene, the head of the Forum, and four more persons – Dmitrij Glazkov, Kazimieras Juraitis, Algirdas Paleckis and Mindaugas Ramoska – are involved in the proceedings as third parties.
The Center of Registers, Turto Bankas (Property Bank), Lithuania’s centralized public property management company, and the Prison Department have also been named as third parties.
“We have established that the activities of the association do not comply with legislation,” the prosecutor said.
Vasiliauskiene also told the court that prosecutors had examined the statements made by Svencioniene to the Russian media, in which she expressed approval of Russia’s war against Ukraine and complained that Lithuania had found itself badly off after severing ties with Russia.
“She belittled Lithuania, said that it previously used cheap energy resources, criticized Lithuania’s membership in the European Union, claimed that elections in Lithuania were void, denied the fact of occupation and justified deportations,” the prosecutor said referring to Svencioniene’s statements to the Russian media.
Svencioniene stated upon arrival to the courthouse that the proceedings were unfair as the decision to shut down the Forum had already been made.
The Center of Registers, acting on the court’s instructions, provisionally repealed the beneficiary status of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood in late November.
If the court upholds the suit, the Center of Registers should repeal, at its own initiative, the beneficiary status registered for the defendant.
The Prosecutor General's Office is also carrying out two pre-trial investigations related to the organization.
One of them is being conducted under the Criminal Code's article on liability for aiding another state to act against Lithuania.
The Prosecutor General's Office said in October that Lithuania's law enforcement authorities had carried out searches, served notices of suspicion and taken other steps as part of the probe into the Forum's activities.
The other investigation centers around Paleckis' signature on the association's founding documents as they were signed when he was already in prison serving his six-year prison term for spying for Russia.
The association came onto the law enforcement radar following a visit by its members to Moscow where they met with representatives of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and held a press conference questioning the legitimacy of the election of the current Lithuanian government, and accusing it of causing economic damage and scaring its citizens about a possible Russian invasion.
Svencioniene and her associates earlier visited Belarus and met with Alexander Lukashenko, the neighboring country's authoritarian leader.
In October, the Forum's members said they were planning to travel to Ukraine's eastern part occupied by Russia to observe the Moscow-organized sham referendums over the annexation of these territories.
Svencioniene later said she had not been able to go to the Donbas because of "very serious artificial obstacles".