Adamkus disturbed by deteriorating Russian relations

The Baltic Times
Adam Mullett
July 10, 2008

President Valdas Adamkus said that Lithuania is increasingly disturbed by the Russian Federation”s views of the Soviet Union and urged “accurate precision” in speaking of the Soviet era during a meeting with the new Russian ambassador Tuesday.

Adamkus said that Russia is refusing to acknowledge its involvement with the crimes committed during the Soviet era. “I do not think it is the goal of Russia”s policy to identify with these crimes,” Adamkus said.

Lithuania is hoping that the new ambassador, Vladimir Chkhikvadze, will bring a new set of relations between the two countries. “Today”s Lithuanian-Russian relations have many bright episodes which can be described as a joint victory of the two neighboring nations. They include a dynamically developing bilateral trade, growing investments, and expanding direct personal contacts between the citizens of Lithuania and Russia,” Adamkus said. Chkhikvadze was unavailable for comment as The Baltic Times went to press.

Adamkus said the two countries have had a long past and require understanding in a time when relations between the two nations are widely thought to be sliding. “Obviously, there have been different periods in the history of our mutual relationship, which dates back centuries. However, we are being increasingly disturbed by Russia”s views of the state which it itself pronounced, in the Belavezha Accords, a “geopolitical reality that no longer exists.” I can assure you that nobody in Lithuania is going to deny the input of the Russian nation in the fight against fascism. Just like the input of any other nation — the Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kazakhs,” Adamkus said.

President Adamkus hailed the ambassador”s contribution to the development of tourism and other ties between Russia and the countries where he had worked as a diplomat. “The period of our renewed bilateral relations has demonstrated that we can agree well in different fields, including where it is necessary for the enhancement of safety and cooperation in Europe. The best example of this is the decisions concerning travels to the Kaliningrad region of the Russian Federation,” the president said in the ceremony, noting further that Lithuania is also ready to consider facilitating travel from Kaliningrad to Lithuania.

Nerijus Maliukevicius is a political analyst and a doctor of political science at Vilnius University. He thinks that despite this agreement, people in Russia are still ambivalent about their culture. “In this statement there was a reminder of the Belavezha agreement . . . but before, Putin said the break up of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, so you have different messages from them,” he said.

The Belavezha Accords, also known as the Minsk Agreement, brought about the official end of the Soviet Union. The agreement was signed on December 8, 1991, by Boris Yeltsin, President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus Stanislav Shushkevich.

Adamkus said it”s important to remember that the Soviet Union is responsible for crimes against humanity in the Baltic countries, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Afghanistan.

Maliukevicius said that people naturally associate Russia with the Soviet Union because “modern Russia incorporates everything from Soviet heritage. Not just the defeat of the Nazis, but all the symbols,” Maliukevicius said.

However, Adamkus is also calling for calm, saying it is crucial to learn to talk about the complicated period knowledgeably and precisely, without offending or insulting anyone.

This will prove difficult, according the Maliukevicius. He thinks there are deep issues to be solved. “Ideological and informative clashes are real and will become more frequent,” Maliukevicius said. “These questions will become more frequent and that upsets people,” he added.

Lithuania is looking for legal cooperation with Russia in solving old cases regarding haterelated crimes. A recent example of this is the cyberattacks on Lithuanian Web sites, which supposedly came from Russia. It is still unclear who is responsible for the attacks.

In response to the hopes of Adamkus for better relations through the new ambassador, Maliukevicius said there won”t be significant changes. “It doesn”t depend on the personality of the ambassador, but the relations between the countries,” he said. “Obviously the personality will be different, but relations depend on strategic relations,” Maliukevicius added.

The cyberattacks occurred on the eve of the first meeting with the new Russian ambassador, which prompted the president to postpone the meeting in what unofficial sources called a “political gesture.” The official government line is that Adamkus” schedule changed. The ceremony to accredit the ambassador had originally been scheduled for June 30.

Career diplomat Chkhikvadze was appointed as ambassador to Lithuania by Vladimir Putin in May. Before his ambassadorial post, Chkhikvadze had headed the Russian Foreign Ministry”s security department since 2005.

Chkhikvadze, 52, graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and spent many years in the diplomatic service of the Soviet Union and Russia, including posts in Angola and Colombia. He was also consulgeneral in Barcelona and an ambassador to Chile.