VILNIUS – Russia, which marks the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany on Monday, has become an aggressor that can be "even more cruel, more brutal than the Nazis", Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Monday.
"I can only wish and hope that this day – which should be celebrated by Russian society as a day of victory over another aggressor, another invader – will be a moment of reflection on what has happened and that today they themselves are the aggressors, and sometimes even more cruel, more brutal aggressors than the Nazis during World War Two," he told LRT Radio.
Russian society "still has not found a place where it can feel safe, calm and finally abandon its messianic or imperialist traditions", according to the president.
Speaking about May 9 commemorations in Lithuania, Nauseda said that the problem is not that people visit the graves of their grandparents or great-grandparents to pay their respects to the dead and "to the sacrifices they made in that war".
"But if this is just a pretext for provocations and, most importantly, for escalation of a new war or slogans that have nothing to do with respect for the dead, then, of course, such things must be prevented, and Lithuania will certainly not allow provocations to be organized against its own people and to discredit the commemoration day itself," he said.
According to Nauseda, Soviet soldiers' burial sites should not become "a kind of propaganda tool" and be used for anti-Lithuanian purposes.
"The situation varies greatly across municipalities. While these monuments are essentially tombstones in some of them, in others, they have very clear ideological guidelines and represent an attempt to influence society ideologically," the president said.
"I am just calling on all municipalities to assess the situation, but certainly I am not going to put up with these relics of propaganda and warmongering, which still abound in Lithuania", he added.
As Russia celebrates Victory Day on Monday, Lithuania's authorities fear unrest and provocations amid Moscow's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Since the outbreak of the war, Lithuania has banned the public display of the black and orange ribbon of Saint George, a popular symbol among those commemorating Victory Day in cemeteries or at Red Army memorials.
Police presence is reinforced around these sites and officers intend to fine those wearing the banned ribbons.