Lithuanian MPs start debating proposal to extend sanctions on Russians, Belarusians

  • 2024-02-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian parliament on Monday start debating the government's proposal to extend national sanctions against Russian and Belarusian citizens for another year, with additional border checks to be imposed on the latter.

"The reasons for which this law was adopted have not disappeared; on the contrary, aggression continues, civilians are dying and are being killed, and civilian infrastructure is being attacked," Deputy Finance Minister Jonas Survila told the parliament.

"In response to the ongoing war and the dramatic impact of these actions on the security of Ukraine and Europe, we propose to extend the law for a year," he said. 

The draft legislation passed the first reading by consensus, that is, without a vote, and further consideration is planned for the spring session.

Survila said that the proposed stricter checks on Belarusians are still not equivalent to the sanctions imposed on Russians and that Russian and Belarusian citizens "will continue to be treated differently" if the amendments are adopted.

"We are confident that the Belarusian people are not and will not be identified with the Lukashenko regime," he said.

The draft legislation provides for extending the national restrictions, including on the issuance of visas and residence permits to Russians and Belarusians and on the acquisition of property by them, until May 2, 2025.

It also calls for conducting additional risk assessments for Belarusian citizens arriving with Schengen visas.

Border guards would decide on the further screening of Belarusian nationals at the second line of control at the checkpoints. Russian citizens are already subject to the individual additional in-depth risk assessment procedure. 

The Foreign Ministry, which proposed this restriction, notes that Lithuanian special services have warned of increased activity by Belarus' special services using their citizens who are in Lithuania.

The current law on restrictive measures for Russian and Belarusian citizens was passed last year and is set to expire on May 2 this year.

The law imposed restrictions for Russians and Belarusians to obtain Lithuanian visas and e-resident status. However, 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. 

Lithuanian politicians are split on the issue of imposing the same restrictions for Belarusians and Russians.

President Gitanas Nauseda and some other politicians maintain that Belarusian citizens should be subject to the same sanctions as Russians, but supporters of the initiative fear it would fail to secure enough votes in the parliament.

Several MPs of the ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats have registered amendments proposing to tighten restrictions on Belarusian citizens. However, efforts to impose similar sanctions on Belarusians as those faced by Russians encounter opposition, mostly from the liberal groups.