Radicals and former Yedinstvo members unite

  • 2001-05-10
  • TBT staff
VILNIUS - State Security Department noticed former post-Soviet activists among protesters gathered in front of Lietuvos Telekomas (Lithuanian Telecom) on May 6. According to a press release, January 1991 putschists and former Yedinstvo members attended the protest staged at the Telecom headquarters in Vilnius.

In the release the Security Department stated it would be keeping a close eye on similar actions.

Small groups of Lithuanian Socialist Party members, some of whom were once participants of the pro-Soviet Yedinstvo-Vienybe-Jednosc movement, took part in the protest together with representatives of other radical political organizations. The best known of these is the Lithuanian Freedom Union, headed by Lithuanian parliamentarian Vytautas Sustauskas (pictured).

Lithuanian Socialist Party is a non-influential party with few members. It is not registered at the Justice Ministry. Before the parliamentary elections in October 2000, it joined a coalition of several radical organizations bearing the title For a Just Lithuania, which is now represented at the Parliament by MP Julius Veselka.

Sustauskas invited "people angered by the wheeling-and-dealing impudence of Lietuvos Telekomas" to join the protest.

Around 300 protesters from the Lithuanian cities of Kaunas and Kaisiadorys gathered in front of the Telecom headquarters in Vilnius.

Sustauskas seemed to whip up the crowd the most, heaping blame not only on Finnish Telecom general director Tapio Paarma, but on the Lithuanian government and media as well.

Sustauskas told the excited crowd the Lithuanian Freedom Union had never abandoned the nation's poor and was carrying on the struggle for social justice.

About midway through the protest, Sustauskas and other protesters were met by Telecom representatives. The protesters presented them with a resolution and a funeral wreath.

The resolution demanded that Telecom immediately cancel the introduction of a 17 centas ($0.04) connection surcharge, provide lower tariffs for the elderly, the disabled and those receiving social welfare benefits and set a lower monthly subscription charge.

Telecom general director Paarma, speaking through company press representative Diana Rociene, later told BNS, "Lithuania is a democratic state where everyone has the right to express their opinion."

"But I don't believe this parliamentarian's actions will go unnoticed by foreign countries, and this will create an incorrect impression of Lithuania, which I believe is a wonderful and rapidly developing country," Paarma said.

As the protest drew to a close, participants decided to hold another protest in front of the Parliament building on May 15. They said this protest would be more than a one-day affair.

In January, Sustauskas stunned Swedish television viewers in an interview in which he made a number of anti-Semitic comments.

The former mayor of Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city, said: "I would be cleaning Jews' shoes in Laisves Avenue (Kaunas' main street) if it weren't for the Germans (and the Holocaust)."

Lithuanian politicians united in their condemnation of the radical MP, the only Lithuanian Freedom Union member to win a seat in the October elections. However, no firm action was taken against him, and he remains in his post at the Parliament.

It was not his first anti-Semitic statement, nor the last.