How this tiny Eastern European country sticks two fingers up to Vladimir Putin

You would be forgiven for thinking that Lithuania is a tiny Baltic country with a population of just 2.8 million. people – would feel the heat after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It not only has a 300 km long border with Russia, but also an important border with Russia’s ally Belarus. The country gained independence from the Soviet Union only in 1991. and is still sort of surrounded, with the main part of Russia on one side and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the other.

With Putin on the warpath, it would be understandable if Lithuanians were more than a little nervous right now. And the government is not taking any chances declared a state of emergency February 24. But Lithuania and its citizens have also fully stepped up their opposition to Putin, expressing solidarity with Ukraine and sticking two fingers at the dictator next door.

Take the graffiti above, right outside the Russian Embassy in the capital, Vilnius. It reads: “Putin, The Hague is waiting for you,” calling on the Russian leader to make up for his (currently suspected) war crimes. And this gloomy graffiti was not sprayed by any unscrupulous street artist, it was ordered by the mayor of Vilnius, Remigijus Šimašius himself. The same text was plastered on the government building in the city center. Fun stuff, really.

Photo: Kristina Jasudaitė

And this is not the only brave act of Lithuanian solidarity. Alongside the abundance of bold street art throughout Vilnius, expressing camaraderie with the people of Ukraine, thousands of women gathered in the country’s cities, protesting against the Russian invasion on February 27. And just last Saturday (March 5), eight balloons rose above Vilnius, each of them was covered with a 20-meter-long Ukrainian flag – this action can be seen from the other side. Belarus border.

Vilnius air balloons
Photo: Gabriel Khiterer / Go Vilnius

And these symbolic actions were coordinated with strong political actions of the Lithuanian government. As part of the European Union, the country imposes EU-wide sanctions on Russia and Belarus, and currently has an open-door refugee policy for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

Lithuania was also one of the main voices in the EU pushing for stricter sanctions and containment measures against Russia and Belarus. She was one of the first to include the rest of the union Separation of Russia from the international SWIFT banking systemand demand sanctions against Belarus for hosting Russian troops before the invasion of Ukraine.

Lithuania, being a member of the bloc, could not really implement economic sanctions against Russia and Belarus, except which have been approved by the entire EU. However, it still managed to take other measures, such as advocacy Exclusion of Russia and Belarus from the European Higher Education Area, and to terminate any academic and scientific cooperation between the authorities of Lithuania and Russia and Belarus. And this is even more important because Russia is like that one of the country’s most important trade partners.

Although on the map it seems that Lithuania is surrounded by hostile countries on two sides, it is not as vulnerable as it may seem. As a member of the EU and NATO military alliance, a Russian attack on Lithuania would have far-reaching consequences. Article 5 of the NATO Treaty states the principle of collective defense of its members, which means that an attack against any NATO member is considered an attack against all of them.

In any case, Lithuania’s courageous protest movement shows that even the smallest countries can resist Russian aggression – and support those who are in real danger.

Want to help? Here is 17 ways you can support the people of Ukraine right now.

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