Lithuanian Foreign Ministry says Russia blocks Mission Siberia expedition

Mission Siberia test trek
Žygintas Jurevičius

“The Foreign Ministry regrets the statement by the embassy of the Russian Federation to Lithuania that prevents the 17th trip by the Mission Siberia youth expedition to Lithuanian deportees’ burial sites in Russia from taking place on July 17 to August 1,” it said in a press release.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Friday Russia would not issue visas to the expedition’s participants.

Moscow accuses Lithuania of having frozen talks on an intergovernmental agreement regulating the maintenance of graves of soldiers and civilian victims.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry says the country on Wednesday adopted new rules on the maintenance of non-movable cultural heritage important for foreign countries. According to the ministry, the rules defines in detail a regulated, transparent, safe, effective and lawful way for foreign countries to tend to graves in accordance with Lithuanian laws”.

The Lithuanian ministry also called Russia’s measures of blocking the Mission Siberia expedition disproportionate.

“The comparison of Soviet graves’ maintenance, organized by the Embassy of the Russian Federation, with the maintenance of the burial cites of deportees, done at a public initiative, is unfounded,” the ministry said.

It also added that the Russia-proposed intergovernmental agreement does not match Lithuania’s national interests.

Two Mission Siberia expeditions were due to leave for Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region this year. The project has been organized since 2006.

Around 130,000 people were deported from Lithuania during the Soviet occupation in 1940-1953.

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