Russia events mustn't overshadow Baltic security – Lithuanian formin

  • 2023-06-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Wagner private mercenary group's mutiny in Russia and the subsequent developments cannot overshadow the security of the Baltic region, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday. 

"The recent events in Russia have confirmed that Russia was, is, and will remain unpredictable. This is where the danger comes from," Lithuania's top diplomat told reporters in Paris. 

"It is very important not to get distracted by the turmoil or try to solve Russia's internal problems," the minister said. 

"We should focus on our key priorities: strengthening defense and deterrence capabilities as well as further increasing our support to Ukraine. Now is definitely not the time to slow down," he added. 

Speaking at a joint press conference with his French and Baltic counterparts, Landsbergis said he hoped that Paris could contribute to a rotational air defense model agreed by NATO defense ministers.

"I am convinced that a safe and secure Baltic region is an indispensable part of a stronger Europe," the Lithuanian minister said.  

"The war in Ukraine has made it obvious that air defense must be one of our top priorities and French leadership would be very important in implementing the rotational air defense model in our region," he said. 

Landsbergis noted that French air defense capabilities are among the most technologically advanced.

"They could be used as very credible part of our deterrence strategy so that no Wagner, no Russian military would ever think to cross the Baltic states' border," he said. 

The turmoil in Russia began last Friday after Wagner said that the country's military leadership had ordered the shelling of its positions.

Shortly afterwards, Prigozhin's forces took control of military sites in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and started marching toward Moscow, threatening to overthrow the military leadership.

However, Prigozhin said after talks on Saturday evening that he was retreating, and his troops withdrew from the positions they had taken. 

The Kremlin announced that the Wagner leader would leave for Belarus.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna also reiterated that the situation is an internal affair of Russia.

She urged the West to remain vigilant and to continue its support to Ukraine.

Latvia's President-elect Edgars Rinkevics, who is also currently serving as foreign minister, said that Russia and Belarus should be seen "as one", especially in the context of recent days.

"We need to treat Russia and Belarus as one, when it comes to sanctions, when it comes to applying all kinds of measures," he said.