Assistance from China is "brainwashing" the Lithuanian people and will spread pro-Beijing propaganda, conservative Lithuanian MPs said on Tuesday. The foreign minister disagreed with the claims, saying securing supplies was more important than ideology.
"Our people are being brainwashed [...] with images of communist China or planes belonging to Russian oligarchs," said MP Emanuelis Zingeris from the conservative Homeland Union, the largest opposition party in the parliament.
"A year later, it will turn into our people ‘voting’ for those countries which are our adversaries," he said.
Last week, large shipments of personal protective equipment and reagents used for coronavirus tests were delivered to Lithuania from China.
LRT reported that the medical supplies were delivered by Volga Dnepr air freight company, owned by a Russian oligarch, Alexey Isaikin.
“It’s completely irrelevant to me, who the planes belong to,” said Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis at the time. “The most important thing today is that the [equipment] is here in Lithuania as quickly as possible.”
On March 20, China also sent 20,000 medical masks and 120,000 pairs of gloves to Lithuania. The shipment was paid for by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and it was delivered free of charge by KlasJet, part of Avia Solutions Group which is owned by Lithuanian businessman Gediminas Žiemelis.
Zingeris also said during the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs on Tuesday that China's incoming support might affect the Lithuanian government's decision on whether to allow Huawei to take part in the country’s 5G infrastructure development.
His fellow party member Žygimantas Pavilionis said China and Russia "are very actively using their propaganda instruments in their bid to discredit NATO, the United States and the European Union".
"In fact, we are already working in the framework of the Chinese and Russian propaganda machines," he said.
However, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius rejected the claims, saying that it would be wrong to invoke ideological divisions as the country raced to ensure supplies of protective equipment.
Linkevičius said Lithuania is actively seeking joint decisions within the European Union and NATO, but underlined that timelines and the price also played an important role.
"It was a matter of hours and we took what was available and from those who could offer, we made that decision and, I think, we did the right thing,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with some ideology,” he added. “We did what we could and, I believe, we resolved it fairly well. We could only get the volumes we needed from China.”
Linkevičius also underlined that Lithuania was raising questions during discussions with Western partners on the dissemination of disinformation during the crisis period.
"Brainwashing should be our common concern, but we should separate [the topic] from crisis resolution,” he said.