6th Dec 2023

Russia's law to uncreate Lithuania: laugh or cry?

  • Vilnius: Lithuanian defence minister made fun of Russian bill on social media (Photo: jbdodane)
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Legal insanity that's causing security worries not just for Lithuania but for wider Europe — that's how Lithuanians see a Russian initiative to un-recognise their independence.

The move was floated in the Russian Duma on 8 June in a bill saying the USSR's recognition of Lithuania's sovereignty on 7 September 1991 was null and void because it went against the Soviet constitution.

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"We are the successors of the USSR. We have the right to annul the decisions of the Soviet Union which are essential for us here and now," Yevgeny Fyodorov, the Russian MP who tabled the bill, told Russian daily Komsomolskaya pravda at the time.

De-recognition would also give Lithuania legal grounds for exiting Nato, Fyodorov added.

It's not the first time Russian politicians have tried to correct the history of the Baltic States.

And for their part, Lithuanian defence minister Arvydas Anušauskas and Lithuanian MP Matas Maldeikis mocked Fyodorov's initiative.

Kyiv City Council had already revoked Moscow's foundation in 1147 anyway, Anušauskas joked on Twitter. If Russia de-recognised Lithuania, Vilnius would revoke the 1634 Treaty of Polyanovka and take back lands from Russia, Maldeikis said.

"It's the hardest thing to argue with foolishness," Dainius Žalimas, a legal scholar and former president of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court, also told EUobserver.

"It's schizophrenia. It's the same as if Serbia suddenly came up with the idea of withdrawing recognition from Montenegro or, let's say, Croatia, because from their point of view Yugoslavia broke up illegally," he said.

"This is aggressive revisionism, which has no legal basis whatsoever. Recognition is irrevocable," Žalimas said.

The main goal of the Russian initiative was a propaganda attack to "publicly belittle" Lithuania by questioning its right to exist, Valentinas Beržiūnas, a professor at the Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science, also said.

For Grigory Amnuel, a Russian exile in Poland who worked for 12 years in the Duma, Fyodorov, the Russian MP, is a known provocateur.

"This bill should not pass the legal scrutiny to be carried out by the legal department of the Duma. And if there is any real lawyer left [in the Russian parliament] this initiative will end up in the dustbin," Amnuel said.

Fyodorov expects the Duma to vote on his proposal in the autumn session.

But if it fell by the wayside, the Kremlin could easily wash its hands of it, even though he hails from Russia's president Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

"Fyodorov's relationship with the Russian presidential administration is characterised by the concept of the 'obedient sewer pipe'. Such relations always make it possible to say that the administration has nothing to do with this," said Amnuel.

But for all that, the wartime environment means the bill is enough to set nerves jangling, the experts said.

Lithuania, a staunch supporter of Ukraine, has already been taking fire from Russian information attacks and Fyodorov has said that if Estonia and Latvia "do not restore their good relations" with Russia, then it ought to de-recognise them too.

"Of course, in modern Russia the decision on non-existency of Lithuanian independence cannot be ruled out," Amnuel said.

It would lead to a break-off in diplomatic relations and pose a threat of military confrontation, he added. "It would mean that Russia is officially declaring war against Lithuania. I could not call it anything other than war," he said.

What seemed like just more preposterous Russian propaganda ahead of its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February also foreshadowed genuine aggression, Beržiūnas said.

"I'm not saying we need to react to everything in public, sometimes even hysterically, but at least we should follow [what is being said in Moscow]," he said.

"Remember, many heard talk about the 'non-existent state of Ukraine', the 'liberation of the Donbas' and so on. What do we see today? Practical realisation of these talks. And that's really worrying," he said.

Author bio

Evaldas Labanauskas is a Lithuanian journalist based in Brussels.

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