Vandals deface embassy in Belarus

  • 2008-07-30
  • By Adam Mullett
VILNIUS - Unidentified vandals plastered the walls of the Lithuanian Embassy in Minsk with Bolshevik symbols and threw bottles of paint over the fence at the main building early Friday morning.
Following the attack, ambassador Edminas Bagdonis lodged an official complaint with the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, demanding that the embassy be protected under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic-immunity agreement that ensures safe passage for diplomatic missions.

In response to the perceived breach of the convention, the Lithuanian embassy in Minsk has stopped processing documents, but Lithuanians in the country can still receive consular assistance.
Experts have said that this is a small display of the resentment stewing in the region, and that the situation will become more serious if it is not resolved. "Baltic governments need to sort out these issues before they become serious. … There were also protests in Kaliningrad [against Lithuania]," Nerijus Malinkevicius, doctor of political science at Vilnius University and political analyst, said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also issued a stern letter to the Belarusian embassy in Lithuania demanding that the culprits be found and punished. The Belarusian ambassador, Vladimir Drazhin, is currently on holiday and so the note was simply left with embassy staff.
The note demanded that the situation be investigated and that measures be undertaken to prevent any future attacks on Lithuania's embassy.

This vandalism is the latest in a string of pro-Russian actions undertaken by nationalists since the Lithuanian parliament passed a law banning all Nazi and Soviet symbolism. The new law sparked outrage in Russia, where politicians interpreted the law as banning modern Russian symbols as well.
Malinkevicius said that he suspects the vandals are young extremists who are expressing their idea of nationalism.

Malinkevicius explained that while Bolshevik and Soviet symbols are detestable to Lithuanians, they carry different associations in Belarus. "We associate them with occupation, but in Belarus they are symbols of victory in the Second World War or the grand Soviet empire they had," he said.
Malinkevicius said that the young radicals he suspects of vandalizing the embassy were probably brought up with books at school that glorify the Soviet era. "It is a general tendency that radical youth will try to catch on to political movements," he added.

The law adopted by the Lithuanian parliament stipulates that Nazi and Soviet symbols, as well as portraits of Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin and other leaders of the Soviet Communist Party, will be banned at gatherings and rallies.
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the hold on document processing would remain in place until Belarusian officials rectify the situation.
In another recent attacks, Soviet symbols and angry Russian-language messages were posted on hacked Lithuanian Web sites.

Lithuania's relations with Belarus have been balancing between critical and pragmatic dialogue because of the European Union's stern stance on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and the state of democracy in his country. Lithuania shares a 679-kilometer border with Belarus.