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2019.08.26 12:00

Lithuania to dedicate 2020 to Sugihara in push for closer ties with Japan

Saulius Jakučionis, BNS2019.08.26 12:00

Several dozen Lithuanian lawmakers registered an initiative last week to declare 2020 the year of Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese diplomat who saved thousands of Lithuanian Jews from the Holocaust during World War Two.

The politicians hope that an abundance of events on this occasion will give a new impulse to Lithuania's ties with Japan. 2020 will mark the 80th anniversary o Sugihara's activity in Lithuania and the diplomat's 120th birth anniversary.

"It's a great opportunity to mark this deed and consolidate our friendly and partner relations with Japan," liberal MP Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, who was among 35 lawmakers who signed the bill, told BNS.

Japan's Vice-Consul Sugihara lived in Kaunas between 1939 and 1940. In cooperation with Dutch Honorary Consul Jan Zwartendijk, he issued thousands of 'visas for lives', whiched helped at least 6,000 Jews escape the Holocaust.

Gediminas Kirkilas, leader of the Social Democratic Labor Party of Lithuania, who also backed the initiative, told BNS that Sugihara's activity "put our relations with Japan in a special place".

"No other neighboring country has ties of that level, not even the bigger neighbour, Poland," the lawmaker said, adding that Lithuanian can expect a visit of a high-ranking Japanese official in 2020.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Lithuania in January, 2018.