Last week, Lithuania’s parliament passed a resolution that designates the Russian Federation as a terrorist country. The resolution was passed unanimously, with 128 votes in favor, none against, and no abstentions.
“The @LRSeimas unanimously recognizes Russia’s actions in #Ukraine as genocide,” the Lithuanian Seimas announced on its official Twitter page on May 10, 2022.
The resolution proclaimed that Russian troops and mercenaries in Ukraine are guilty of genocide and other heinous war crimes that have been recorded in the cities of Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Borodyanka, and Gostomel.
— Seimas | #StandWithUkraine (@LRSeimas) May 10, 2022
It also claims that the Russian forces on the ground had the conscious intent to wholly or partially dismember the Ukrainian state and crush its spirit by massacring, abducting, torturing, mocking, and raping its people.
“The Seimas recognizes the full-scale armed aggression – war – against Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation and its political and military leadership […] as genocide against the Ukrainian people,” the resolution reads.
Holding Russia Accountable
The resolution makes Lithuania the first country in the world to declare that Russia is guilty of terrorism. It, however, was not the first nation to accuse Moscow of committing genocide. That honor belongs to Canada after its House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion to classify the brutal deaths in Ukraine as genocide late in April.
“The parliament of Lithuania is the first in the world to recognize Russia as a terrorist country. In addition, members of the Seimas stated that the Kremlin regime seeks to destroy the Ukrainian nation, and thus its actions should be considered genocide,” wrote the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security of Ukraine in a tweet after hearing of the Seimas’ decision.
Lithuanian lawmakers stress the importance of holding all the perpetrators accountable for their actions. They also suggested that the international community should form a Special International Criminal Tribunal, an entity that would be tasked with assessing criminal allegations against Russia.
They recommend that the Tribunal be granted sufficient powers to issue internationally recognized arrest warrants that will not be limited by the immunity of a state or heads of state.
“The Russian Federation, whose military forces deliberately and systematically target civilian targets, is a state that supports and perpetrates terrorism,” the document reads.
Praise From Ukraine
Ukrainian officials are celebrating the decision of Lithuania. Chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, expressed his gratitude for Lithuanian law and described it as a “historic decision.”
“Lithuania recognized actions (Russia) in (Ukraine) – genocide of the Ukrainian people! Thanks to the Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen and all the deputies for unanimously accepting this historic decision,” Ruslan wrote in a Facebook post sharing his appreciation for the resolution.
“I urge the whole world to pick up the baton so that the memory of the mass murders of Ukrainians has never been erased by the enemy,” he further wrote.
Lithuania Poking the Bear
Lithuania’s proclamation against Russia does not come without risk. For one, it could sour the already tense relationship between the former Soviet republic and Moscow.
Since the war in Ukraine began in late February, former Soviet countries in the Baltic region, including Lithuania, have wondered whether they would be next on Vladimir Putin’s list if he were to succeed in Ukraine.
Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors were annexed by Joseph Stalin during the Second World War and were just freed after the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991. The group of nations joined NATO in 2004 to prevent that from happening again.
The Baltic governments have been some of the most vocal advocates for devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and NATO deployments along the alliane’s eastern front.
“The battle for Ukraine is a battle for Europe. If Putin is not stopped there, he will go further,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last February.
Geopolitical analyst Samuel Ramani believes that Lithuania’s recent move runs the risk of facing “harsh reactions in Moscow,” citing a Russian lawmaker that has already threatened a response.
“Russian Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov warns that Russia could completely cut off economic ties with Lithuania. Lithuania’s labeling of Russia as a terrorist country and accusations of genocide in Ukraine are provoking harsh reactions in Moscow,” Ramani wrote in a tweet.
Still, it appears that Lithuania is willing to maintain its resolve in its stand against Russia despite possible consequences. In April, the country was the first member of the European Union to cut off Russian energy imports.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has publicly called for a regime change in the Russian Federation in an interview.
“As long as a regime that intends to wage wars outside Russian territory is in place, the countries surrounding it are in danger,” Landsbergis was quoted saying.