Lithuanian formin says no need for same sanctions on Russians, Belarusians

  • 2023-07-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Tuesday that he saw no need for imposing the same sanctions against Russians and Belarusians because of the Wagner mercenary group's possible relocation to Belarus.

His comment came in response to President Gitanas Nauseda's criticism of the parliament's decision to override his veto and give its final approval for imposing different national sanctions on Russian and Belarusian citizens over the war in Ukraine.  

Landsbergis, leader of the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), the biggest party in the parliament, said there were no signals that Wagner was preparing for provocations from Belarus.

"First of all, if we think that someone (...) may illegally obtain a Belarusian passport and enter Lithuania, they can do it now," the minister told Radio Ziniu on Tuesday.  

"We have services that are, I have no doubt, working and checking people crossing the border, or are able to check (and ensure) that people involved in terrorist activities do not cross our border, which has to be done no matter if Wagner is 100 kilometers or 500 kilometers from Lithuania," he said.

The finally adopted Law on Restrictive Measures in Response to Military Aggression against Ukraine imposes temporary restrictions for Russians and Belarusians to obtain Lithuanian visas and e-resident status, and bans them from bringing Ukrainian hryvnias into Lithuania. The measures are in place from May 2 this year to May 3, 2024. 

Russian citizens face additional restrictions on entry to Lithuania and acquisition of real estate in the country. Lithuania also temporarily refuses to accept their residence permit applications. 

The parliament expanded the list of sanctions, but set out exemptions for Belarusian citizens. This is why Nauseda vetoed the law.

Landsbergis noted that the decision to treat Belarusian nationals and Russian nationals differently was taken because hundreds of thousands of Belarusians had opposed the regime of Alexander Lukashenko and taken to the streets to demand democratic elections.

"Showing them that their struggle (...) and quest for freedom is heard in Lithuania and in Europe was, in my opinion, a very important element," the minister said. 

"Russia has done everything it can to remove itself from the map of European civilization. The people of Belarus have not. Lukashenko tried, but the people did not do it," he said, adding that imposing the same sanctions on Belarusians without any clear security reasons "would send the wrong signal to the Belarusian people". 

In response to Nauseda's remark that "we will have to come back to this issue in the very near future," Landsbergis said that Lithuania could adopt uniform sanctions against Russians and Belarusians if border guards or intelligence bodies alerted the authorities of specific threats from Belarus. 

"However, we do not have such information at the moment, and even less so when the law was adopted in the Seimas," he said. 

Satellite images of what appeared to be a newly built military-style camp in Belarus emerged on international media on Saturday, with reports saying that it could be used to house fighters from the Wagner mercenary group.

Reportedly, the images suggest that dozens of tents were erected within the past two weeks at a former military base outside Osipovichi, a town 230 kilometers (142 miles) north of the Ukrainian border. 

Wagner's leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and the group's mercenaries were allowed to relocate to Belarus following their short-lived mutiny in Russia.