President Gitanas Nausėda on Friday vetoed a law adopted by the Seimas on national restrictions for Russian and Belarusian citizens. According to the Head of State, the law is stricter for Russian citizens than for Belarusians and therefore needs to be harmonised, TV3.lt reported.
While the two governments disagree, political analyst Bernardas Ivanovas says this is not an issue that Lithuania should tackle alone.
Journalist Vladimiras Laučius interviews the political scientist in TV3 News ”Dienos komentaras” (Daily Commentary).
From your point of view, where is the logic here, and which side’s logic do you find more acceptable?
The real problems are that there are actually a lot of refugees in Lithuania – tens of thousands of people from Belarus, from Russia, who, in one way or another, have demographic and other impacts on life in Lithuania. So I see one thing: we can no longer deal with this issue at the national level. We probably need to think at the European level.
Why is it that, if we have dealt jointly with the issue of refugees from North Africa, with refugees from other regions, we have been left on our own in this case?
Are you saying there was no need for national sanctions, either for Russian citizens or Belarusian citizens?
It was necessary. Sanctions were needed, of course. No doubt about it. Lithuania is not rubber, which is what we are talking about. We cannot do everything ourselves – that is my point. People need to be helped, and I think there are people loyal to Lithuania among those who are fleeing. There are representatives of Navalny working in Lithuania, and there are representatives of the opposition working. These are people who are in favour of democracy, in favour of freedom and in favour of common Europe. We understand their attitude perfectly well, and it is not in question.
Do you share the fears, which I have heard many times, of so-called ‘Litvinism’, where the Belarusians seem to covet the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) history and say that it is their state? This is also a threat to the current national Lithuania because sooner or later, the Belarusians may say that this is our country, we will take back Vilnius and so on. Is that a real threat?
Absolutely. Even 20 years ago, when I was teaching at Vilnius University, I had to communicate with several streams of students. I’ll tell you frankly – their attitude to this issue is quite radical. They told me directly that we stole their heroes, took away Kalinauskas, Gedgaudas, and other rebels, and appropriated princes.
So there is this question of identity, and I do not know how much our historians are capable of confrontation. It is not such a simple question because I think we will have a serious situation with the Belarusian national revival, which is postponed. It is postponed, and it will happen one way or another. Lukashenko has squeezed it, but it is only a matter of time before it breaks through.
So you would agree with the President’s position that the same restrictions should be imposed on Belarusian and Russian citizens?
I feel very sorry for the people, but we will not deal with everybody. That is obvious. We have to look for common solutions to this issue in Europe. We must try to cooperate with other countries so that this is not an existential challenge for us.