Migrant crisis was part of Kremlin's plan to destabilize region – Lithuanian parlt speaker

  • 2023-03-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Russia posed a threat to Lithuania's security long before the start of the war in Ukraine, which is clear from the migrant crisis that is part of the Kremlin's wider plan to destabilize the region, Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said on Friday, opening the Vilnius Security Forum.

"Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and its consequences for Ukraine, for Europe and for the international system as a whole are so far-reaching that the subject of security as a whole has been demanding our constant attention for many months now and is unlikely to go away any time soon. In fact, security issues started to concern us, Lithuanians, way before February 24 last year," she said.

"With hindsight it appears that the migratory pressure on our eastern borders in the summer of 2021 was part of the Kremlin's larger plan to destabilize the situation in our region, create political turmoil, drive a wedge between EU countries, distract from the Kremlin's preparation to attack Ukraine, put pressure on our financial and logistical resources and so on," Cmilyte-Nielsen said.

Almost 4,200 migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus in 2021. Lithuania sees this as Minsk's hybrid attack and claims that Belarusian officials are actively contributing to illegal migration into Lithuania and the EU.

According to the Seimas speaker, the goal was to divert attention from Russia's preparations to attack Ukraine.

She also said that historical experience had helped Lithuania to remain vigilant towards its eastern neighbor and to signal the arising threats to Western partners for at least a decade.

The Western world has not yet fully realized what a gift Ukraine has been to everyone by standing up to the aggressor and giving them time to realize "where we stand and who we are dealing with".

The Lithuanian parliament is hosting the 8th Vilnius Security Forum on Friday.

This year's event will focus on collective defense and challenges and ways to bolster it. 

Its participants include NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Operations Burcu San, Ben Hodges, former commander of United States Army Europe, and Oleksiy Arestovich, a former advisor to the Ukrainian president's administration, and others.