Šimašius pledged to send responses to both Russian officials later today, notifying them that Lithuania would want to exchange the Soviet-era sculptures for some items of Lithuanian heritage that are currently in Russia.
“I will definitely specify in the letter that a very large number of Lithuanian historic valuables and documents are stored in Russia. If Russia values the sculptures so much, we could perhaps exchange them and get back our Lithuanian historic valuables. (…) I believe there are definitely things in Russian funds that we would want to have back. I personally would want the exchange,” he added.
The mayor said he had not yet discussed the position with the Ministry of Culture, emphasizing that all proposals would be considered in autumn. Šimašius also noted that the statues are still listed as protected property.
After more than 60 years on the Green Bridge, the four sets of sculptures, in critical disrepair, were removed last week, quoting danger to pedestrians.
The four groups of sculptures portraying soldiers, workers, farmers and students, were built on the Green Bridge in central Vilnius in 1952.
Culture minister: Proposal hasty but not impossible
Lithuania’s Culture Minister Šarūnas Birutis later commented that Šimašius’ proposal to exchange the Green Bridge sculptures for Lithuanian cultural heritage items in Russia is hasty, but not impossible.
“It was a hasty instinctive proposal, but this is not impossible. We can fantasize – some fantasies sometimes come true,” Birutis told BNS on Wednesday.
In his words, problems may emerge when trying to assess Lithuanian cultural artefacts held in Russia. On the other hand, the minister admitted he did not even know what objects that might be.