VILNIUS – The procedure adopted by the Lithuanian government to restrict entry for Russian tourists has not been violated when letting Russian journalist and TV host Ksenia Sobchak cross into Lithuania, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said.
“As far as we know, Ms. Sobchak crossed the border presenting a valid Israeli passport in her name. This means that she has Israeli citizenship. Such persons have the right to cross the European Union’s border and also have the right to cross Lithuania’s border in accordance with the procedure set forth by our government and stay in the territory of the EU for up to 90 days,” he told reporters in the parliament on Thursday.
He stated that the officers of the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) who had let Sobchak cross into Lithuania had not violated the existing procedure.
As of September 19, only those Russian citizens who meet the criteria approved by the government are allowed to enter Lithuania. These include Russian diplomats, dissidents, employees of transport companies, family members of EU citizens, as well as Russians with residence permits or long-stay national visas from Schengen countries.
Russian citizens can also continue to transit through Lithuania by train to and from the Kaliningrad region.
Seimas Speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen seemed inclined to downplay the arrival of Sobchak to Lithuania.
“The specific circumstances or the reasons of arrival are not known. However, she is an Israeli citizen who has used a possibility to arrive using her Israeli passport. I wouldn’t attach too much importance to that,” she told reporters on Thursday.
Landsbergis stressed that Darius Jauniskis, the head of Lithuania's State Security Department, had told the Ziniu Radijas news radio earlier on Thursday that there was no evidence that Sobchak could pose a threat to Lithuania's security.
He also pointed out that the Russian TV host had not been included into any national or international black lists, or the black lists of other countries.
“We add individuals to our black list in cooperation with partners. All countries must agree on the blacklisting of individuals for the sanctions to be effective. Otherwise, the sanctions will not work because it will be possible to cross the border of another country and arrive in Lithuania as there are no internal borders,” Landsbergis explained.
“Ms. Sobchak has not been included into the lists of sanctions of the EU, the UK, or those of the United States. In other words, there are no clear presumptions that would have a foundation in law and would withstand a legal challenge in court. However, this does not imply that such presumptions cannot emerge,” he said.
“Ms. Sobchak might have left Lithuania’s territory already because she is not restricted in her movement to Poland, to other European countries, or to the north,” the minister added.
Citing their sources, the 15min.lt and the Russian state news agency TASS on Wednesday reported about Sobchak's arrival in Lithuania via Belarus.
According to Russian media reports, searches were carried at Sobchak's home on Wednesday as part of a pre-trial investigation into possible extortion.
Her associate Kirill Sukhanov was reportedly detained the day before. Sukhanov is the commercial director of Sobchak's holding Ostorozhno.Media.
Officers say Sobchak has no procedural status in this investigation.
She called the detention of her associate "another example of pressure on the media" in Russia.
In 2018, Sobchak ran for president and ended up fourth, but her decision to stand for election was fiercely criticized by Russia's opposition as it said Sobchak's candidacy was a "Kremlin project" aimed at splitting the liberal electorate.