Lithuanian parlt backs tougher sanctions on Belarusians, but rejects travel restrictions

  • 2024-04-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday rejected proposals to restrict travel for Russian and Belarusian citizens to their home countries, but took a step toward passing a bill extending national sanctions against them and tightening conditions for Belarusians.

Twenty MPs voted in favor of the proposal to deprive Russians and Belarusians who travel to Russia and Belarus more than once a year of their temporary residence permits in Lithuania. Forty-seven voted against and 45 abstained.

The proposal to allow just one trip every three months received 41 votes in favor, 37 against, and 39 abstentions.

The first proposal was put forward by a group of parliamentarians, and the second was tabled by the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense.

Kasparas Adomaitis, one of the MPs who voted against the motions, said that "the proposed solution is not really adequate".

"It only covers a very narrow range of travelers, and it's not clear why only Belarusians should be banned from returning to Belarus. Why can Lithuanians go to Belarus and not be restricted in any way? They can also be recruited, regardless of their nationality," the MP of the liberal Freedom Party said. 

Conservative Audronius Azubalis, one of the initiators of the travel restrictions, expressed disappointment with the parliament's decision.

"With this vote, you have essentially made this law meaningless; there are no more restrictions. I don't quite understand what the point of this law is now," Azubalis said.

"Remember that during the first incomplete quarter of this year, Belarusians with temporary residence permits in Lithuania crossed the Belarusian border 422,000 times. Intelligence agencies have been warning for two years in a row that this poses a threat to national security, but you say no. You're taking responsibility," he said.


Although the proposal on travel restrictions was not approved, a bill extending other national sanctions against Russian and Belarusian citizens for another year passed the second reading in the parliament in a vote of 82 to three with 34 abstentions.

It will still have to pass a third and final vote to be adopted. 

The current law on national sanctions, which was passed last year, imposed restrictions for Russians and Belarusians to obtain Lithuanian visas and e-resident status. Russian citizens also 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 new version of the law proposes more restrictions for Belarusians, as Lithuanian intelligence agencies have warned of increased activity by Belarus' special services using their citizens who are in Lithuania.

The bill calls for conducting additional risk assessments for Belarusian citizens arriving with Schengen visas, considering the potential threat to public order, internal security, public health or international relations.

On Tuesday, the Seimas also backed a proposal to ban imports of agricultural products and feed originating in Russia or Belarus, with the specific list to be drawn up by the government.

The parliament also supported an amendment to revoke temporary residence permits for Russian and Belarusian nationals who intentionally, publicly and systematically spread false information contrary to public or state interests or publicly support acts of aggression

The new bill also calls for prohibiting both Russian and Belarusian citizens without temporary or permanent residence permits in Lithuania from buying real estate in the country. 

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in Vilnius, opposes the new restrictions. She believes they unfairly link ordinary Belarusian citizens with Alexander Lukashenko's regime and are therefore unjustified.