Lithuanian business and opposition leaders fear Russia will wield its economic clout (Photo by Aldric Van Gaver)
VILNIUS - ALithuanian opposition leader has said that Russian investment in the countryposes a threat to national security.
Head of the opposition Homeland Union Party and ParliamentaryVice-Speaker Andrius Kubilius told journalists on Monday that the Lithuanianpopulation should "give up illusions of Russia'sgentleness."
"Up until now we thought that Russia'sarmed aggression against us was very unlikelyâ€¦ We should give up the illusionwithout delay," he said.
Kubilius pointed to a recent policy plan outlined by RussianPresident Dmitry Medvedev that the opposition leader said clearly stated Russia's"unilateral right of defending its citizens and its business interests."
Russia and Lithuaniaharbor close business ties. Among more than 160 foreign trade partners of Lithuania,Russia rankedfirst in terms of trade turnover, imports and exports during the first quarterof this year.
Lithuaniaimports 100 percent of its natural gas from Russia,while some 40 percent of the EU member state's agricultural exports go to itseastern neighbor.
The opposition leader also took the opportunity to blast hispolitical opponents over their inability to "defend [the country] against Russia'sinfluence." Kubilius leveled his criticisms at former President and PrimeMinister Algirdas Brazauskas, Labor Party head Viktor Upaskich and Order andJustice Party head Rolandas Paksas.
The comments came alongside concerns raised by prominentlocal businessmen that Russian economic bullying could cripple business in Lithuania.
The Veidas magazine reported on Monday that Lithuanianbusinessmen feared Russiawould impose sanctions on the country for its strong response to the Georgiancrisis.
"Being a large, ambitious and aggressive country, Russiawill use all possible measures of political and economic pressure," DariusMockus, president of MG Baltic, was quoted by the magazine as saying.
"Considering Lithuania'sdependence on Russiain terms of energy resources and raw materials, we would probably face thewhole set of their measures," he said.
Bronislovas Lubys, president of Lithuania'sConfederation of Industrialists and president of Achema Group, seconded thefears. Lubys said politicians should avoid sharply criticizing Russiaand should adopt a more flexible position toward the country.