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As the last ally: Lithuania takes Ukraine under its patronage

An “International pro-Ukrainian coalition” has been Kiev’s cherished dream since 2014. But its only true allies today are Canada, with its big Ukrainian community, and the Baltics, especially Lithuania, who considers it to be its civilized mission to democratize the post-Soviet republics and to tear them away from Russia.

In this light, we would like to remind you that in the early 1990s, the Lithuanian authorities adopted laws prohibiting Lithuania from taking any part in integration projects involving Russia and that today Lithuania is the only EU state having almost no political contacts with the Kremlin. When in early 2018, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis suggested restoring contacts with Russia, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite cut him short.

A few weeks ago, the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Conservatives) formed a so-called group of friends of Ukrainian Crimea. The mission of that group is to support international diplomatic, information and economic initiative to bring Crimea back into Ukraine, to campaign for the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea.

This is not a new idea. Last year, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (who owns a Roshen factory in Klaipeda) suggested establishing an international “group of friends for Crimea’s de-occupation” and discussing that project at the UN General Assembly. The project was not discussed and was soon forgotten but now Poroshenko’s Lithuanian allies have appeared with a similar plan. According to MP from the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats Laurynas Kasciunas, the Lithuanian authorities will do their best to promote this initiative in the West.

Ironically, Lithuania chaired the UN when Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement with the EU and was one of the most active promoters of the Euromaidan – a process that ended in Yanukovych’s overthrow and Crimea’s split from Ukraine.

The results of the election of the Russian president in Crimea and Sevastopol and Kiev’s refusal to recognize them have shown that the Ukrainian authorities have no strategy of how to restore contacts with Crimea and to reintegrate it into Ukraine. So, how can the Lithuanians help if the Ukrainians have no strategy on Crimea?

The point is that the true goal of the Lithuanians may be to show their indecisive western allies “how this must be done.” Perhaps, for the same purpose, the Lithuanians are supplying the Ukrainians with arms contrary to UN and OSCE conventions. The last batch of Lithuanian arms worth $1.93mn (over 7,000 Kalashnikovs, over 80 machine guns, mortars and anti-tank guns) was shipped in Nov 2017. This is hardly enough for changing the balance of forces in Donbass, but this is a symbol – a way for Lithuania to show its NATO allies that they must not be afraid to supply Kiev with lethal weapons for its military campaign in Donbass.

In 2016, the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania published a book by one of the members of the well-known Ukrainian Aidar Battalion entitled “The Hybrid War of Russia: The Experience of Ukraine for the Baltic States.” The same academy keeps training servicemen from Ukraine contrary to the Minsk Agreements.

Besides, the Lithuanians are lobbying a kind of a Marshall plan for Ukraine. The author of the plan is Andrius Kubilius, former Lithuanian Prime Minister, under whom Lithuania faced a serious crisis. The plan obliges the EU to provide Ukraine with no less than 5bn EUR within six years. But its true goal is to promote the name of Kubilius and his formula “the more America there is in Europe, the less Russia there will be there.” The plan was supposed to be made public at the Eastern Partnership summit in Nov 2017, but it wasn’t as it is clear that the West will not give any money to the corrupt post-Maidan regime. Kubilius is not losing hope though and has appeared with an article instructing Ukraine on what it should do to be able to realize his plan.

Theoretically, this plan can be realized but on condition that the conflict in Donbass is settled and that an anti-corruption court is created in Ukraine. The Europeans should be interested in it as in a few years, most of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors will go out of date and will turn into a serious threat for their security.

During the last Lithuania-Ukraine energy forum on Dec 8, 2017, Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said that Lithuania was ready to help Ukraine to decommission its nuclear reactors. Who else indeed can do it but Lithuania, whose key precondition for admission into the EU was the shutdown of its Ignalina NPP and who turned from an energy exporter into an energy importer as a result.

The Kiev authorities keep assuring their people that “the whole world supports Ukraine” but in reality that “whole world” fits in one region of European periphery.

Igor Federovsky, Kiev

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