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Friends and allies: How Lithuania helps Ukraine

Photo: baltnews.lt

Recently, a group of Ukrainian soldiers erected a cross at Lithuania’s Hill of Crosses. The cross is designed to commemorate victims of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in Donbass. During the ceremony, the Ukrainians said that Lithuania was their key and most reliable ally. And they are right: few nations do as much as the Lithuanians do for Petro Poroshenko’s regime.

To Your and Our Freedom

Among the guests were Ukraine’s Ambassador to Lithuania Volodymyr Yatsenkivskyi and representatives of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. On the cross, it is written: “To Your and Our Freedom.” It is quite symbolical that they have used the slogan once popular among Soviet dissidents and first used by Joachim Lelewel, one of the inspirers of the November Uprising (1830-1831) in Poland. One of the Ukrainian soldiers Oleksa Sokil, who is being treated in Lithuania, said that the in the EU, only Lithuania has deserved the right to be called Ukraine’s true ally. “Please, know that you have brothers – the Ukrainians. We are always ready to help you and no treaties will stop us. Nothing will stop us! If you tell us that you need help, we will help you – because… Europe has helped us in words only while you have helped us in practice,” Sokil said.

The author of the idea to erect a cross at the Hill of Crosses is Ramunas Serpatauskas, a Lithuanian military man, who has been curing ATO victims for over two years already. Six Ukrainian soldiers are being treated at a rehabilitation center in the spa town of Druskininkai.

Over the last two years, as many as 127 Ukrainian “heroes” have been treated in Lithuania. According to Governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Valentyn Reznichenko, Lithuania was one of the first states to receive Ukrainian soldiers wounded in combat activities in the east of Ukraine. “The Druskininkai center specialize in treating orthopedic traumas. And the local nature – lakes and pipe forests – will foster their psychological recovery,” Reznichenko said.

Ukrainian mass media are savoring stories about brotherly Lithuanians supporting “Ukrainian heroes.” One of them is about 40-year-old shoemaker from Volyn Sergei Shaposhnik, who fought in the Dnipro 1 battalion and wounded in the battle of Ilovaisk. “They have promised me that they will not amputate my leg. It was splintered by a bomb. But now I am already walking,” Shaposhnik said. “Those people will be cured because our people want them to be cured,” Lithuania’s military attaché to Ukraine Mindaugas Kvilkis said.

This is what Ukrainian journalist Roman Malko writes about the Ukrainian patients of the Druskininkai center: “The youngest is Mykola from Konotop. He is 21 and this is the first time he is abroad. He fought for just two months. He was wounded on Oct 1, 2014. He underwent a one-year treatment but is not OK yet. The Center is doing its best to help him. It has both the experience and the ability to do it. Although small – just 30 beds – it is always full. The center was established for Lithuanian peacekeepers… I have always wondered why such a small nation as Lithuania is fighting for Ukraine. Now I know who is our true brother. We have much in common. Once we both were parts of one state – Grand Duchy of Lithuania, we both were under one occupant, we both led a guerrilla war and we both were on the brink of annihilation. But now I know: if you are attacked, we, the Ukrainians, will not wait for an order and will rush to protect you.”

From door to door

It has become a kind of a national idea in Lithuania to help the Ukrainian brother in their fight against their eternal enemy. NGO representatives knock at the doors and ask ordinary Lithuanians to help the “Ukrainian protectors of Europe.” This is what a Kaunas-based correspondent of BaltNews.lt writes about such an unwelcome visit: “The visitors introduced themselves as members of the League of Young Conservatives and asked to provide ‘underwear, diapers, bandages, clothes, shoes, blankets, tents, cereal, sugar, vegetable oil, canned food ’ for the needs of ATO fighters. When we told them that I had neither food nor old clothes for them, they asked us to donate money for those ‘protecting Europe from the Russian aggression.’ We didn’t give them any money and they were very much displeased with our indifference towards the ‘heroes of Ukraine.’ ‘Should you need help, the Ukrainians, as brothers, will come to help you. This is why we must help them today,’ they said.”

But food, clothes and medicines are not the only things the Lithuanians are sending to Ukraine. In early 2017, Ukrainian military sources said that Lithuania was supplying them with DShK and KPTV heavy machineguns. “The Ukrainians are happy to inform that the Lithuanians have supplied them with 86 DShKs and 60 KPTVs and also 150 tons of ammunition,” Lithuanian military expert Aleksandras Matonis says. “In the past, such supplies were secret. DShK was first used in 1939, KPTV in 1949,” Matonis adds. Experts say that Lithuania has no such weapons and is acting as a mediator.

This is what self-defender from Donbass Andrey Morozov writes in his blog about some 18 Javelin anti-tank missile systems reportedly supplied to Ukraine from Lithuania: “Long outdated, given to the Lithuanian as long as 10 years ago, those systems are supposed to become the first test for Ukrainian soldiers. If they lose them, nobody will be sorry. At least, they will learn how to use them. If they do, they will get more. But even if given, those systems will not be distributed among battalions but will be used by small mobile groups, which will protect the flanks of bigger forces. The Balts have already supplied the Ukrainians with lots of anti-tank missile systems and hundreds of missiles and will have no problems with supplying more,” Morozov says.

In the meantime, real-vin.com quotes Ukrainian mass media as saying that the Lithuanians have given the Ukrainians a big butch of ammunition and lethal arms, more specifically, 150 tons of ammo, 18 Javelin anti-tank missile systems and 146 lethal weapons. All that arsenal is now being used against self-defenders in Donbass. The supply was not secret but was approved by NATO. Even more, the arms were provided by 18 NATO members, with Lithuania acting as a mediator only.

Sweet tales

But the most interesting part is the news about a new Marshall Plan the Lithuanians suggest for Ukraine. Quite recently, former Lithuanian prime minister Andrius Kubilius gave an interview to 112 Ukraine TV, where he called for drastic reforms in Ukraine. His neoliberal reforms in Lithuania in 2008-2012 ended in a big wave of emigration. “The Ukrainians may oppose the reforms because their state has no clear motivation as was the case with our nation, who was quick in getting rid of the Soviet legacy. One of the reasons why we succeeded was that we had a chance to join the EU and that chance motivated us. Today, Europe is facing hard times and will hardly be able to offer the same to Ukraine. But instead, they could offer the Ukrainians a new Marshall Plan. Otherwise, the reforms will stall and Vladimir Putin will use this opportunity. We already have the plan and are promoting it in the world,” Kubilius said. His co-authors are former prime minister Gediminas Kirkilas and former foreign minister Petras Vaitiekunas. Kubilius’s statement has made the Ukrainian politicians ecstatic: at last, Europe will pour a golden rain on us!

Such promises give rise to doubts. Ukraine no hopes to overcome its economic crisis and to repay its huge foreign debts. It will hardly find a crazy sponsor, who will be ready to spend billions on a loss-maker. But the Lithuanian politicians are too much preoccupied with the idea of “anti-Russian brotherhood” to care for this – all they want to make some bombastic statements and they don’t care if those statements are practicable or not. Their Baltic neighbors act likewise. Recently, former Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Raoivas told the Ukrainian press: “In Europe many people believe that the Ukrainian politicians not only want but also can reform their country. In such a situation, a Marshall Plan for Ukraine is a reality.”

Of course, all these promises will never come true. But they give a tactical advantage to Petro Poroshenko, who may refer to the Balts and say: “What did I tell you, Europe actually wants to help us.” And nobody will explain to an ordinary Ukrainian that Lithuania has a very small part in the European “concert” and that none of the soloists will give an ear to their “new Marshall Plan”…

Vyacheslav Samoylov

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