“There are many Poles, Lithuanians, many Europeans are fighting there on the side of those battalions,” the Russian minister said in an interview to the Bloomberg TV. The text of the interview was published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website on Monday.
Kęstutis Girnius, associate professor at the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University, said the accusations are meant to list Lithuanians as the “bad guys”.
“Poles are mentioned as the largest nation. And accusing Lithuanians of fighting against Russia is nothing out of the ordinary. There were similar accusations during the Chechen wars. On the other hand, Lithuania cannot be criticized for harming the Russian-speaking minority [at home], so such accusations come in handy when they want to list Lithuania as the bad guy,” Girnius said.
In the interview to Bloomber, Lavrov also claimed that fighting in Ukraine involves just volunteers from Russia, not the regular forces, with foreign fighters participating in the efforts on both sides.
At the beginning of September, NATO said it had received information about several thousand soldiers and hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles sent by Russia to eastern Ukraine. After a ceasefire was reached, the Alliance said it has been observing Russian withdrawal over the past days.
Lithuanian MFA: Fiction and provocation
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has dismissed Lavrov’s statements as fiction and provocation.
The ministry said such statements on Moscow’s part aim to justify the aggression against Ukraine and fuel hatred towards Lithuanians.
“We view the ungrounded fiction as a provocation, which is aimed at justifying the aggression carried out against the people of Ukraine and fuelling hatred towards Lithuanians in Russia,” the ministry’s Information and Public Relations Department said in a comment to BNS.