Lithuanian MPs to decide on whether to impose same sanctions for Russians, Belarusians

  • 2023-04-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian parliament is set on Thursday to deice what national sanctions to impose on Russian and Belarusian citizens over the war in Ukraine as they will vote on whether to accept or override President Gitanas Nauseda's veto and proposal to introduce the same restrictions for Russians and Belarusian, or to keep the previously adopted decision on fewer restrictions on Belarusians.

According to the president, Belarus, just like Russia, is taking part in the military aggression against Ukraine and poses an evener greater threat to Lithuania's national security interests than Russia.

Meanwhile, the ruling block and part of the Seimas opposition are inclined to override the presidential veto, saying that Belarusian citizens cannot be treated the same as the Russian society supporting the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, the leader of the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said Russian and Belarusian citizens could not be treated equally as the latter "are fighting for freedom and democracy". In his words, the Belarusians "have what we would call a spiritual sovereignty".

"Hundreds of thousands of people turned to the streets in 2020 to fight against the regime. We have not seen such efforts in Russia," he said.

At least 71 out of 141 Lithuanian MPs needs to vote in favor to override a presidential veto.

The Seimas of Lithuania adopted the law on restrictive measures in view of military aggression against Ukraine in early April. Under this law, Russian and Belarusian citizens would be subject to four sanctions until early May, 2024, and another three would be in place for Russian citizens only.

The president vetoed the law and suggest introducing the same restrictions for both Russian and Belarusian nationals, including the refusal to issue visas and temporary residence permits to live in Lithuania, except for cases mediated by a government-authorized institution or in cases when those citizens already have a visa or residence permit in Lithuania or another EU country.

Moreover, citizens of both countries entering Lithuania via the EU's external border would be subject to additional individual in-depth checks. They would also not be granted e-resident status and barred form purchasing real estate in Lithuania.

Nauseda also proposes adding an additional sanction to the law: Russian and Belarusian citizens who have been found guilty by courts of violating international sanctions or restrictive measures would be considered a threat to national security, public order and human health. According to the presidential office, this would make it easier to revoke national visas and residence permits issued 

In addition, Russians and Belarusians will not be able to bring Ukrainian hryvnias in and out of Lithuania from the beginning of May until May, 2024

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in Vilnius, had asked for lighter restrictions for Belarusians.

According to the Migration Department, almost 49,000 Belarusian citizens were living in Lithuania at the beginning of this year, and most of them fled repression by the Lukashenko regime after the 2020 post-election mass demonstrations.

The law on national sanctions will replace the Seimas resolution imposing a state of emergency on the Russian-Belarusian border, which expires in early May. It contains some of the restrictions that have now been transposed into the law.