Where the Kremlin’s influence is largest – how to reduce isolation?

Polish and Lithuanian flags
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

Research commissioned by the Eastern Europe Studies Centre shows that more than two thirds of ethnic minority representatives view Russian President Vladimir Putin positively. Making a sad joke, former head of the centre, now member of the Seimas National Security and Defence Committee Laurynas Kasčiūnas quips that V. Putin could be a serious candidate for the Lithuanian presidency in some regions, Info TV reported.

The research has revealed some very obvious things – an entire 74% of respondent Lithuanian Russian view V. Putin positively or very positively, 64% of Lithuanian Polish respondents say the same. What we also note is that the lower the individual is on the social ladder and the more economically insecure they feel, the more their views suit the Kremlin,” said member of Seimas, conservative L. Kasčiūnas.

Proposing to create a fund

After such shocking results, ideas arose to create a South East Lithuania fund which would integrate such people into Lithuanian cultural and political life in various ways.

“To integrate those people more, rather seek instruments how to do so and I believe that those instruments are gradually appearing. The South East Lithuania fund we are discussing is one of the practical steps we could take to begin those actions, to show people that we understand them and definitely do not want to leave them in segregation, instead wanting to fix these mistakes. It will be a great challenge, however we are prepared for it, we have to make these steps and as is our political responsibility, we have to show those people that they are valued citizens of our country,” said member of Seimas, conservative Monika Navickienė.

The Conservatives hope that the fund idea will also be supported by the majority Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LPGU) fraction.

“I sincerely hope that the Peasant Greens will support this project because if it does not actually succeed, then it is definitely a question whether there is no agreement between Ramūnas Karbauskis and Waldemar Tomaszewski regarding certain support or something even deeper. We are asking a simple and clear question – everything is clear for me regarding Tomaszewski, his political background, let us remember the Ribbon of St. George, let us remember how this entity is interested in maintaining the isolation of these people in South East Lithuania, it is the recipe for survival for this political power. It benefits Russia, it benefits the East, we can see this. And if the Peasant Greens do not support the instrument which would reduce the Kremlin’s influence in Lithuania, then we will add a certain number of questions, ones raised by Andrius Kubilius toward Ramūnas Karbauskis, adding the question of whether this is not an intentional disinterest in integrating South Eastern Lithuania into Lithuanian political and economic life?” says Kasčiūnas.

The majority objects

The LPGU fraction is not supportive of the initiative.

“I am critical of this initiative and so is the Seimas Budget and Finance Committee because the same objectives can be achieved systematically through regional policy instruments at the state level. I also believe that a crucial element is our relations with our strategic partner Poland and such things should be done together. I believe that this is an attempt at advertising by a certain party and has little purpose,” LPGU Vice Chairman Tomas Tomilinas rejected the idea.

While L. Kasčiūnas is surprised by the cooperation of W. Tomaszewski and R. Karbauskis‘ parties, Tomilinas highlights that there is no love lost between the Polish Electoral Action and his party. Instead he points to similar voting of the Conservatives and the Poles.

“It is Waldemar Tomaszewski who supports this fund himself, they are both voting for it, it is a project of Laurynas Kasčiūnas and Waldemar Tomaszewski; in my opinion it is unnecessary,” Tomilinas explained.

Criticising prohibitions

Meanwhile the Liberals see more than geopolitical problems in R. Karbauskis and W. Tomaszewski‘s relations.

“Speaking of Waldemar Tomaszewski, that it is that sort of superficial, perhaps lowly and based on emotions flirting, trying to show that supposedly it is moral politics being done. That this normal supposed politics is made up of even more prohibitions and in essence restrictions on people‘s freedom, I wouldn‘t make any sort of geopolitical insights, I believe that on the surface we have that sort of cooperation which is no less dangerous, truth be told. The Western world is notable for certain values. They are freedom and personal responsibility, when this is attempted to be replaced with regulation and coercion, it is digging at our foundations and this is no less terrible than Russian propaganda which attacks us,” says Liberal Movement Chairman, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

Criticism for ethnic minority research

The Liberals are also critical of the research which shows a large lack of loyalty among Poles and Russian.

“That is the way with research. It would appear, until you look in depth, it would appear that everything is reliable, but when you look into it, then you notice there are many catches and stars, since I saw neither the methodology, nor how it was performed, I only saw headings, so I have doubts about such radical conclusions,” said Šimašius.

Politicians believe that research such as this which portrays potential disloyalty on part of ethnic minorities only serves to distance them from the rest of the country and aids Moscow.
“With such brief, perhaps overly brief research we stratify society and place a stone where it does not belong. You see in 1990 we were unified and, say the citizenship establishment law and proposal was absolutely the right decision, so let us not forget what we had and that with every such piece of intimidation we also intimidate those people <…>. And I view this with great caution, we have to have certain political responsibility in using such research, so as to not create something negative,” said MEP Petras Auštrevičius.

During the research 500 Poles, Russians and individuals of other ethnicities (non-Lithuanians) were interviewed.

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