VILNIUS – Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys has asked residents to avoid provocations on May 9, the day when Russia celebrates its WW2 victory over Nazi Germany, and to allow officials to work.
"I think this should be left to our services in the first place. We are different from other countries in that we can deal with and enforce the law in a civilized way," the minister told reporters on Tuesday after his meeting with Darius Jauniskis, head of the country's State Security Department.
"I would expect mature reactions and some kind of common awareness that would not cause more problems but would just show that we are a civilized country and that we deal with problems in a fundamental way and not in the context of one date or another," he said.
The minister says he has seen calls on social media to come to cemeteries, but he urged people to focus on supporting Ukraine and other long term tasks and "not to fall for the hook that may happen on May 9".
"I have seen that people are thinking of coming to that place or something like that. Nobody will ban some people from going to cemeteries to pay their respect to the dead, or others from just watching the process. But it would be good to end all things by looking at it and not really getting hooked," the culture minister said.
Kairys also informed the SSD director about the Ministry of Culture's decision to open up possibilities for municipalities to decide on the removal of Soviet monuments in local cemeteries. Lithuania will respect and maintain its international obligations to protect burial sites, but will distinguish this from monuments that promote war, he said.
Earlier, the SSD warned of possible provocations and violent incidents in Lithuania on May 9, when Russians mark the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two.
According to the intelligence agency, May 9 commemorations will most likely be held at Soviet soldiers' cemeteries in Lithuania this year, as every year.
Such commemorations are organized annually in various Lithuanian cities and towns by Russian diplomats together with Russian expatriates.
These events are usually attended by several hundred people wearing Saint George's ribbons whose public display has recently been banned by the Lithuanian parliament because of the war in Ukraine.
The intelligence agency has also said that some organized efforts may be seen in the run-up to May 9, noting that demonstrations in support of Russia's war in Ukraine have already been held in some EU countries.
Also, Lithuanian municipalities have recently taken steps to remove from public spaces monuments erected during the Soviet era to honor Red Army soldiers who died in WW2.