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2021.06.07 08:00

Same faces, different protests. Anti-LGBT rallies in Lithuania organised by same pro-Kremlin activists – LRT Investigation

Jurgita Čeponytė, Indrė Makaraitytė, LRT Investigation Team, LRT.lt2021.06.07 08:00

The Big Family Defence March on May 15 was organised by people that have continuously flagged up in reports by the Lithuanian intelligence service, the State Security Department. The same figures have also appeared together in various antisystemic protests and pro-Kremlin political movements. LRT Investigation Team reports.

According to figures issued by the police, The Big Family Defence March (Didysis Šeimos Gynimo Maršas) on May 15 attracted some 10,000 participants. Its organisers rallied against the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, same-sex partnership, and “genderist propaganda”.

Read more: Lithuanian president addresses rally against 'genderist propaganda', backs traditional families

The rally was also addressed by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, as well as Bernhard Zimniok, a German MEP from the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, with pre-recorded video messages.

The organisers also presented a demand for Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė and Parliament Speaker Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen to fire the ministers, as well as the director general of LRT due to “biased, unobjective information”.

Same faces, different protests

The organisers of the Big Family Defence March included Raimondas Grinevičius, Artūras Orlauskas, Viktoras Jašinskas, Algimantas Rusteika, Arvydas Daunys, Vitolda Račkova, Adelina Sabaliauskaitė, and Antanas Kandrotas.

Grinevičius and Orlauskas have previously been involved in political movements, participating in elections with the Order and Justice party, Social Democratic Labour Party, Civic Democracy Party, and the New Union.

Back in November 2018, Jašinskas organised a protest against stricter punishment for violence against children, and strengthening institutions protecting child rights. Representatives of the Kaunas Forum and populist, conspiracies-peddling figures like Ugnius Kiguolis, Vytautas Šustauskas, and Kazimieras Juraitis were also present at the protest.

Read more: Minister asks to investigate calls to shoot gay Lithuanian MP at anti-lockdown rally

In December 2018, Jašinskas became one of the founders of the Vardan Šeimos (In the name of the family) association, which claims to defend family and child rights. Some of the other founders include Algimantas Rusteika, Vygantas Raulinaitis, and Aušra Jurevičiūtė.

One of the speakers at the protest against “baseless taking away of children” was Aras Sutkus, a member of the Lithuanian People’s Party, and one of the initiators of the informal Susitelkimas movement.

The movement consists of many member organisations, including the ones that initiated the Big Family Defence March and numerous other protests in recent years, such as the right-leaning Facebook group Neabejingi, Family Movement (Šeimų Sąjūdis), Centre Party, Nationalist and Republican Union, Lietuva Yra Čia movement, Union of Intergenerational Solidarity, and the Electoral Action of Poles.

One of the organisers of the Big Family Defence March, Viktoras Jašinskas, also has ties with Aras Sutkus and was also a former member of the People’s Party.

People’s Party and ties to Putin’s regime

Back in 2017, Viktoras Jašinskas was presented as a member of the People’s Party, participating in discussions seeking to unite political parties with shared ideologies. Jašinskas refused to comment on his political background.

However, Aras Sutkus, former leader and current vice-chairman of the party, confirmed Jašinskas’ involvement, and said that Jašinskas was a devoted supporter of Rolandas Paulauskas, who was the party’s leader back then.

The Lithuanian People’s Party was founded in 2009 by Kazimiera Prunskienė, and was endorsed during its founding meeting by Konstantin Kosachev, then chairman of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, who expressed satisfaction in having found a political ally in Lithuania. He also said that United Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party – and the Lithuanian People’s party shared a similar agenda.

Read more: Who spreads vaccine lies in the Baltics?

In 2011, Prunskienė signed a partnership agreement with the ruling United Russia party.

Since 2014, the People’s Party continued building its links with pro-Russian forces. According to a report by State Security Department (VSD), the party, then led by Aras Sutkus, joined the so-called June 3 group (Birželio 3-iosios grupė; B 3 grupė) in 2015 together with an informal pro-Russian movement Mūsų Gretos.

The State Security Department’s investigation shows that the formation of the June 3 group led the Russian state media to report that there was a growing opposition in Lithuania to its Western-oriented foreign policy.

The People’s Party, or organisations with ties to the party, have participated in nearly all the recent protests. Some other figures related to the People’s Party include its previous leader Nendrė Černiauskienė and Pranciškus Valickas, who has also participated in anti-NATO rallies.

Pro-Russian figures and online media

Vitas Tomkus, the editor of the daily newspaper and news website, Respublika, as well as Olegas Titorenka, Kristoferis Voiška and Algirdas Paleckis – who are mentioned in VSD reports – were also present at the May 15 protest.

Alongside them, Rolandas Paulauskas, Audrius Butkevičius, members of the People’s Party Kazimieras Juraitis and Aras Sutkus were also at the rally.

Juraitis is a follower of the former chairman of the People’s Party Rolandas Paulauskas and has also flagged up in several VSD reports.

Read more: LRT FACTS. Deep state conspiracy theory coming to Lithuania

He was the co-owner of the Tėvynės Konduktoriai company, which manages PressJazz TV, an online channel. Juraitis also produces content for the channel. Manwhile the director of Tėvynės Konduktoriai is Dmitrij Glazkov, a conspiracy theorist who was also present at the May 15 rally.

Other owners of Tėvynės Konduktoriai include former MP Audrius Nakas, a curator at Ekspertai.eu fringe news website.

Dmitrij Glazkov, as well as one of the organisers of the march, Arvydas Daunys, founded the Adpresa company back in June 2019.

Among the co-founders was Laurynas Ragelskis, editor of a pro-Russian news website Ldiena.lt. However, in response to the LRT investigation, Daunys has claimed that Ragelskis left Adpresa after a few months.

Read more: Amid lockdown fatigue and polarisation, will Lithuania see its own 'Capitol Hill' riot?

VSD reports say that Kazimieras Juraitis, Dmitrij Glazkov, and Arvydas Daunys are propagating “anti-state” ideas and are funded by anti-Lithuanian organisations. These figures have reportedly been in partnership with Vaidas Lekstutis Žemaitis, who was also charged with “anti-state” activities in the past.

PressJazz TV has been denoted as the official broadcaster and supporter of The Concept of Public Security, a Russian project that was named in a 2016 report by the VSD as a world domination conspiracy theory.

Supporters of the Concept were seen in anti-NATO and anti-US protests.

Dmitrij Glazkov, besides his support for The Concept and his work with fringe online media, was also one of the initiators of the Lithuanian Society Council (Visuomenės Taryba) in 2018.

Its founders include Eugenijus Paliokas, member of the People’s Party, Žilvinas Razminas, an organiser of anti-NATO protests, Tauras Jakelaitis, interim chairman of the People’s Party, as well as Kipras Valentinavičius and Aurimas Drižius.

Aside from his activities at the Society Council and the Big Family Defence March, Kipras Valentinavičius has previously helped organise referendums against the sale of land to foreign nationals, as well as Lithuania’s adoption of the euro. He also took part in protests against immigration.

Valentinavičius routinely shares conspiracy theories on his social media accounts, including articles and videos on the “globalist conspiracy” and the “deep state government”.

Aras Sutkus, vice-chairman of the People’s Party, could not provide information on why the party continues to share protests and activities with figures and organisations continuously mentioned in VSD reports.

Kazimieras Juraitis told LRT that he is no longer associated with the People’s Party. Despite attending the rally, the organisers would not let him contribute further, potentially because of his aim to be elected to the Seimas, which would make him a competitor, said Juraitis.

Ugnius Kiguolis, a prominent figure on social media who promotes conspiracy theories and has appeared in similar protests before, told LRT that he did not organise any protests, and that he only knows one person from the Kaunas Forum and the Vardan Šeimos association.

When asked why the same people always attend the same protests, both Kiguolis and Nendrė Černiauskienė, member of the People’s Party, did not disclose any further information.

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