“Officials of Lithuania will not attend the military parade in the Red Square in Moscow on 9 May,” the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s Information and Public Relations Department said.
According to the ministry, Lithuania’s ambassador to Russia will lay flowers on the Tomb of Unknown Soldier together with other EU ambassadors on 8 May in tribute to the victims killed during World War Two.
Leaders of many Western countries turned down invitation from Moscow amid the Russian actions in Ukraine. However, most of them delegated lower ranking officials, mainly ambassadors, to attend the event commemorating the end of World War Two.
Latvia and Estonia have confirmed they will be represented by ambassadors at the 9 May festivities in Moscow, while the US will also delegate its Ambassador John Tefft.
Two diplomats from different institutions told BNS that Lithuania would be the only EU nation that has decided not to send an ambassador.
Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius told journalists on Monday that Lithuania would pay tribute to the victims of the war on 8 May, adding that 9 May gives Lithuania nothing to celebrate, as the war left the country occupied by the Soviet Union for 50 years.
“The state of Lithuania was not involved in World War Two and we are definitely doing the right thing. After the war, as we know, we were occupied for another 50 years, so how can we celebrate freedom or democracy and mark the day as a celebration?” the prime minister said.
Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, director of Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science, told BNS that the Lithuanian government’s decision not to delegate an ambassador was an “extreme practice, which is rather rarely used in relations between states”.
“This shows the stance of Lithuanian officials in charge of foreign policy on Russia’s role in the European security architecture and the character of its actions in Ukraine. The position is stricter than that of many other EU countries,” said Vilpišauskas.
In his words, different representation of member-states in Moscow shows “absence of coordination and a unified position” within the EU.
Vilpišauskas said the three Baltic states shared a similar view on World War Two and the Soviet rule, yet “have repeatedly shown different positions on the tactical ways of developing current relations with Russia”.
After the end of World War Two, there followed active guerilla resistance in Lithuania until 1953, which is often referred to as “war after the war”. In 1990, Lithuania was the first of the Baltic countries to declare independence from the Soviet Union.
Participants of the Moscow events to mark the 70-year anniversary of the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany will include Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and leaders of China, North Korea, India, Republic of South Africa, Mongolia, Cuba and Vietnam.