German convoy in support of friendlier ties with Russia crossing Lithuania

The group entered Lithuania from Kaliningrad, the western Russian enclave.

Rokas Pukinskas, spokesman for the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, told BNS that the caravan of about 70 vehicles had entered Lithuania on Tuesday evening. It consisted of cars, minivans and motorcycles with approximately 200 individuals of various age, mainly German nationals.

The tour participants entered Lithuania via the Panemunė checkpoint. Lithuanian border guards, who had been informed about the action by its organizers, recognized them by their citizenship. The vehicles did not bear any marks identifying them as part of a political action, they said.

“Usually, the absolute majority of travellers crossing the checkpoint are either citizens of Lithuania or Russia, and all of a sudden Germans appear (…). During checks on the border, a person has to provide their identification documents, we check if they are not wanted by the authorities or if they are undesirable in the country, and if everything is OK, we wish him a good trip,” Pukinskas said.

Checks of the caravan of vehicles did not reveal anything prohibited, therefore all travellers were allowed to enter Lithuania, he added.

On their website, the organizers say they support closer ties between Germany and Russia.

“Instead of sanctions, military threats or even war, we rely on knowledge and cooperation between the peoples of both countries to ensure the supreme good of peace,” say the organizers, adding they plan to visit Šiauliai and the Zokniai military airfield in Lithuania which hosts the base of the NATO Baltic air policing mission.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has said that Lithuania respects different opinions, adding that the event will be used by the Russian propaganda.

“We are a free country, anyone who wants to come to Lithuania can come. They have to respect the law and rights of other citizens. We hope for civilized behavior of the German citizens,” the minister told BNS.

Linkevičius has also noted that the rally is covered by journalist Ivan Blagoy who has been earlier charged by the German authorities for coverage of an alleged rape of a small girl, Lisa, by migrants.

Lithuanian political scientist Antanas Kulakauskas says that the position expressed by the action is supported by many Germans, but not the majority.

“This is not the prevailing line in Germany, it is rather strong and supported by not only the descendants of Russian or Kazakh immigrants, but also Germans, including (Germany’s former chancellor) Gerhard Schroeder. Furthermore, sanctions [on Russia] have a price in Germany, France and elsewhere,” he added.

In Kulakauskas’ opinion, such events are not highly significant.

“Of course, this has no major significance, but it moves both sides, just like any demonstration. The dominant line in Lithuania is critical of the trip, but the German organizers do not find the Lithuanian position very important,” said the political scientist.

Lithuania has been critical of Moscow since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and incited a bloody civil war in the country’s eastern regions. Moreover, Vilnius has been a vocal proponent of EU’s economic sanctions on Russia and has been asked for more NATO presence in the Baltic States and Central Europe to deter any possible aggression from Moscow.

Germany intends to station an international battalion in Lithuania next year, which will include about 1,000 troops.

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