Kremlin envoy applauds Lithuania on Kaliningrad, rejects any hope of occupation compensation

  • 2006-03-29
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - The Kremlin's envoy to the European Union, who was in Vilnius last week, dismissed any chance that the Baltic state would receive compensation for damages incurred by the Soviet occupation. Meanwhile, an adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin made one of the most sensational declarations in recent memory, saying that Hungary and the Czech Republic received an apology from Russia because they did not ask for similar compensation.

"The issue of financial compensation was not raised" in those two countries, Igor Pavlovsky, a member of the Board for Interregional and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, told a news conference at the Russian Embassy in Vilnius on March 24. The statement boldly contradicted earlier arguments as to why Russia has been reluctant to admit the occupation 's namely, that any such recognition would essentially be offering legal justification for Estonia and Latvia's noncitizens, a status Russia wants to see abolished.

Regarding accusations, the Kremlin's EU envoy Sergey Yastrzhembsky told reporters, "Russia does not plan on reimbursing the damages, and I believe the topic should be 'closed' once and for all if we want to continue developing our bilateral ties."
He added, "Topics related to various assessments of history and claims should be left in the past so they don't burden today or tomorrow."

The envoy stressed that Russia wanted dynamic development of cooperation with Lithuania. In his words, "if we cannot untie these knots, we should preserve them for the nations yet to come, who will be more intelligent and less ideological. They will solve the problems."
Adamkus told journalists that Lithuanian-Russian relations should be based on trust, mutual respect and the values of the European Union. When asked to comment on Yastrzhembsky's statement, Adamkus said he had not heard it since he was attending a Europe-Russia forum at the time.
At that forum, however, Adamkus said the question of compensation was a moral and not a financial issue.
"There are certain principles, which Russia is expected to comply with in order to join and become an equal member of Europe and participate in solutions of European issues," he said during his speech.
"We cannot comprehend reasons behind the Russian government's refusal to honor the memory of victims of the Soviet regime. It was only recently that we heard the Russian president censuring the atrocities of the Soviet regime. Why isn't this possible with regard to the killings in (...) the Baltic states?"
Russia still maintains that the 1940 occupation of the Baltic states was actually a voluntary accession to the Soviet Union.
During visits to the Czech Republic and Hungary earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed regret and claimed "moral responsibility" for the events of 1956 and 1968 when Soviet troops repressed democratic movements in Hungary and the then Czechoslovakia.

Lithuania, unlike Estonia and Latvia, adopted a law obligating the government to hold negotiations with Russia over compensation, estimated at 80 billion litas (23 billion euros). The law is still in effect.
Meanwhile, Yastrzhembsky applauded Lithuanian efforts to solve issues of the Russian Kaliningrad region.
"We believe Kaliningrad is an example of good relations," Yastrzhembsky said after his meeting with Adamkus.
Prior to EU enlargement, Russia feared the Kaliningrad exclave would be isolated, wedged between Lithuania and Poland. For Kaliningrad, EU membership "brought major changes to the border-crossing procedures and lives of the region's population," said the Russian official.
In his words, Lithuania contributed to the solution of rising problems. Yastrzhembsky applauded the simplified procedures of passenger transit.

The Russian presidential envoy also said Lithuania was the first country that Russia signed a readmission treaty with. Based on the example, analogous agreements with other Schengen countries were prepared. "This is also due to cooperation between Lithuania and Russia," said Yastrzhembsky.
Commenting on Belarus, Yastrzhembsky stressed that Russia "supports the choice of the Belarusian nation." He also accentuated that the sanctions proposed by the EU after the much criticized and undemocratic elections would not solve the problems.

By contrast, Adamkus lamented the situation in the neighboring country. "It is a pity that being next to each other, Russia and the European Union sometimes view the environment around them differently. This is also shown by the elections in Belarus, which failed the democracy test and now constitute a threat to the civil society," Adamkus said at the forum.
"It is a pity that Russia views the EU proposal to 'build partnership' in an effort to assist Europe's neighbors as a game aimed at 'exerting influence,'" the Lithuanian leader said.
The main goal of Yastrzhembsky's trip to Vilnius was participation in the second Europe-Russia forum, organized by the Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute, in cooperation with the Polish Eastern Institute.
The envoy could not say when or if Putin might visit Lithuania, which invited the Russian president to visit several years ago.
Last year, Adamkus rejected an invitation to Russia to attend festivities of the 60-year anniversary of the victory against Nazi Germany.