VILNIUS - Vandals have defiled a poignant Soviet Era monument on the Green Bridge by spray painting red swastikas and leaving a fake bomb at its base ahead of the massive Victory Day celebrations, which commemorate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany.
Police called on a bomb removal squad to handle the device on May 8, which was later found to be a fake.
Police officials are certain that the vandalism of the statue, which depicts two Soviet soldiers, was vandalized in response to Russia's May 9 celebrations. May 9, dubbed Victory Day, is widely celebrated in former Soviet states.
The four statues of the Green Bridge are the only Soviet Era monuments remaining in Lithuania and are an obvious target for anti-Russia protests. The statues are meant to symbolize the ideals of communism.
Vandals also left a sign at the base of the statue that had the words "Communist Whores" written on it.
University lecturer Morta Vidunaite from Vilnius University, an expert on Lithuanian Foreign Policy and Diplomacy, said she thinks that these vandals should simply be ignored.
"I don't think we should hype this up and take it seriously," Vidunaite said.
It is her opinion that radical nationalists or 'skinheads' are to blame. She said such groups are trying to show that they don't want any symbols of Lithuania's Soviet past to remain in Vilnius.
"These people are not highly educated - their actions are not rational. They are trying to achieve something with these actions but they aren't rationalizing. It is some romanticized idea of a Lithuanian past that they are striving for," Vidunaite said.
Vidunaite is not, however, a proponent for the removal of the statues from Green Bridge.
"We need to keep the statues to help us come to terms with the painful past that we suffered," she said.
Moreover, Vidunaite said the swastikas probably aren't a reference to Nazis but are instead a symbol of racism in general.
"That is how these people probably understand this symbol today," she said.
Large Victory Day celebrations in Latvia and Estonia passed relatively peacefully.