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2019.04.19 14:39

Lithuanian minister cautions against accepting Russia's 'new normal' after Estonian president's visit

Saulius Jakučionis, BNS2019.04.19 14:39

Lithuanian foreign minister says he would like to see more coordination among Baltic governments' policies vis-a-vis Moscow, commenting on Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid's meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s always more effective when we coordinate things and act in a more united way (…) as there will always be attempts to divide us and test the unity of European countries or the Baltic states,” Linas Linkevičius told BNS Lithuania on Friday.

He said Tallinn had not provided any information before Kaljulaid's visit to Moscow about what issues would be addressed. Still, the Lithuanian minister hopes Estonia will provide more information about the meeting.

Linkevičius said he was reluctant to make judgements about foreign leaders' visits, but added that “it's important for Russia to show it is not isolated, and perhaps to create an impression of usual cooperation, something such visits contribute to.”

“Dialogue should not become a smoke screen for keeping things as they are, only creating an impression of cooperation as usual,” the head of Lithuania's diplomacy said.

“It will have been meaningful, if there are some tangible results, which we really hope for and await.”

The minister said that usually Western officials' meetings with Russian counterparts produce little change in “either actions or rhetoric”.

“After all Russia, does nor regret having annexed 20 percent Georgia's territory in 2008, or the fact that it annexed Crimea in 2014,” Linkevičius said.

The Estonian president said after her meeting with the Russian leader that they “talked for long about complicated topics while demonstrating mutual respect even during the most difficult moments”.

Kaljulaid also opened the refurbished building of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow and expressed hope that it would give new life to Estonian-Russian relations and that her presence there was a sign that Estonia was ready to work with its neighbour.

Kaljulaid also said that it was time to resume the EU-Russia cooperation programme.

Linkevičius refrained from comments on the latter statement, saying he wanted to wait for more information.

Meanwhile, Putin stated on Thursday that absence of official relations between neighbouring countries was not normal.

Major Western countries keep ties with Russia on the presidential or prime ministerial level. Those Eastern European governments that more critical towards Moscow usually cooperate on the ministerial or vice ministerial level. Lithuania is the only EU member without ministry-level interaction with Russia. Vilnius officials say a return to normal relations would encourage Moscow to continue its aggressive policy.

One of Russia's goals is to make others accept “the new normal”, Linkevičius said.

“We need to be cautious about that,” the minister said.

Russia is currently subject to EU sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.