After the State Security Department (DSS) explicitly identified the threat of possible terrorist attacks by far-right groups in the near future for the first time this year, experts consider that the intelligence services would not disclose such information if there was no real basis for it wrote Tadas Ignatavičius and Vytautas Bruveris in lrytas.lt on 4 May.
Attacks on politicians too?
Last week, the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Second Operational Services Department (AOTD) published their annual National Security Threats Review under the Ministry of National Defence.
Among other threats, it also states that Lithuania is home to several dozen individuals “actively spreading propaganda of the ideology of right-wing extremism on digital communication platforms”. According to the DHS, some of them are spreading their ideology in public places and at protests by putting stickers and distributing leaflets.
“In 2021, after a long period of time, several large-scale protests took place in Lithuania, involving between 5 and 15 thousand people. Most of them were peaceful citizens of the country, (…). Still, these events also attracted supporters of the Kremlin’s policies, those who promote extremist ideologies and destructive conspiracy theories, have unconstitutional attitudes and see violence as a tool to achieve their goals,” the DSS report states.
The DHS notes that Lithuanian right-wing extremist discussion groups distribute manuals to produce improvised weapons and explosives, literature on martial arts and military tactics, and manifestoes of right-wing extremists who have carried out large-scale terrorist attacks.
“These trends indicate that right-wing extremist activity remains a risk factor for state security and that attempts to carry out terrorist attacks against ethnic and religious minorities, refugees, civil servants or public figures working in the field of human rights are likely to occur in the near future,” the report states.
It has a basis
Mečys Laurinkus, the former head of the State Security Department, said on the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “Not for the Press” that he is sure that the DSS is relying on concrete information when talking about possible terrorist attacks.
“There is a completely concrete basis for having such information. The assessment of social processes, a kind of monitoring, has been going on since 2000, even before that, and the methodology, the means to have precise information both in relation to specific people and groups, their methods and their links with others, have already been perfected.
Whereas before, information was gathered in bulk and it wasn’t easy to structure it, now there are completely different possibilities – all this has improved a lot since 2000. So I am convinced that the DSS is justified in saying this and has concrete information,” said Laurinkus.
A whole new dimension
During the programme, Gediminas Kirkilas, former Prime Minister and member of the Party of Regions of Lithuania pointed out that the threats posed by far-right organisations had not yet been identified in the DSS reports.
“This is a relatively new thing, and it has probably never been identified in threat assessments or in other documents that I have seen that are not public. So it is certainly a new thing.
I don’t know whether the services are relying on real information in this case or whether they are extrapolating a little bit from what has happened in other countries,” said Kirkilas.
“However, the way it is written – quite straightforwardly, without rounding off the wording – suggests that our services actually have some information,” he said.
A favourable environment
For his part, Saulius Skvernelis, former Prime Minister and leader of the Democratic Union “In the Name of Lithuania”, said that the threat of terrorist attacks based on right-wing extremism has existed for some time.
“This is nothing new to me because I have had to observe, know and have this information in-depth for the last year and even longer. There have always been threats from right-wing extremism and left-wing extremism, by the way. The level was different, and it depended on the medium – whether there is a medium for such people to become even more radicalised,” Skvernelis said on “Ne spaudai”.
According to him, if there is a medium and opportunities for extremist organisations to operate in the country, they will certainly take advantage of it.
“And it has already been taken advantage of – I would like to remind you that a couple of years ago, a possible real terrorist act in Vilnius was discovered – precisely on the basis of right-wing extremism. The police and the SSD detected it.
This radicalisation, this polarisation of society, creates the conditions for such phenomena to occur. And it is already the task of our intelligence and law enforcement institutions to prevent this from happening,” Skvernelis stressed.
“The environment and the possibilities for this are there. It can be seen in reality, but whether or not it will actually happen depends on the capacities of our services, and I hope that it will be prevented”, he added.