Many representatives spoke at the Kiev Security Forum this year where they expressed hopes for Ukraine as a nation and raised awareness for Russian transgressions. Among these speakers was Republic of Lithuania‘s 13th Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who was resolute in explaining that it is a mistake to discriminate between the “opinion of the Russian government” and the “opinion of Russians” as they are one in the same. His view that a unified Russia poses a serious security threat is shared by several European countries that share its border. Skvernelis said bluntly, “There will be no changes until we find new approaches [to communicating with the Russian government].”
Skvernelis went on to say, “We often say that the Kremlin is one thing and the Russians – another. I personally thought this too. But the way they voted during the last elections denied this. Look at the election outcomes in the regions we thought were most democratic. Look at how Moscow and St. Petersburg voted.” He added that, “Russia will not turn into a democratic state without our interference […] We thought earlier that the Kremlin supported the old generation, that the youth will come and change everything. But look at the polls, how the youth voted, how 15-35-year-old Russians voted.” His statement is reference to overwhelming national support for President Vladimir Putin who garnered 76.69% of votes this past election. The Russian governments administration under Putin has become questionable in its recent endeavors in the Middle East as well as the Crimean peninsula and the international community is taking notice. While independent researchers have claimed the election fraudulent with Putin receiving millions of unofficial votes, nothing can be substantiated yet.
Prior to the Kiev Security Forum, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis made controversial remarks directed at Russia when he demanded the Lithuanian-Russian intergovernmental commission be renewed. He said Russia’s inability to communicate with its neighbors, “harms the interests of the state and its citizens,” adding that, “Contacts with friendly countries are always a good thing, but Russia routinely violates international law, has invaded its neighbors, and is conducting a military, information and cyber attack towards others.”
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė immediately addressed the remarks made by Skvernelis as being “irresponsible.” She said, “It would be naïve to think that economic relations with this country are possible and separate from politics [because] Russia has always used its energy, trade and other instruments to exert pressure and influence on other countries. [Lithuania’s] experience only confirms this.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Ināra Mūrniece tiekas ar Lietuvas premjerministru Derivative work: Homo ergaster [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons