Lithuanians celebrate

Russia Mulls Lithuania’s ‘Illegal’ Independence From Moscow

A Russian lawmaker called for Lithuania’s to be repealed, submitting a draft independence bill claiming the Baltic republic illegally left the Soviet Union more than three decades ago.

The proposed legislation was submitted to the Russian lower house, the Duma, on Wednesday by Yevgeny Fyodorov, a member of the ruling United Russia party.

In March 1990, Lithuania became the first republic to announce it intended to restore its independence from the disintegrating USSR, under whose control it had been for five decades after the Soviet army occupied it in 1940.

The Soviet authorities initially tried to stop the move, demanding it be canceled and imposing an economic blockade on the country. Mass protests ensued and the Soviet army invaded the capital, Vilnius.

The State Council of the USSR, chaired by its last president, Mikhail Gorbachev, eventually adopted Lithuania’s independence decree on September 6, 1991, by which time the Baltic republic’s new status had already been recognized by 50 countries.

But Fyodorov said this decree was “illegal” because it was adopted “by an unconstitutional body,” which was in violation of the USSR constitution.

He said that under article 67.1 of the Russian constitution, the Russian Federation is the legal successor of the USSR on its territory. Therefore, in his view, this meant that the recognition of Lithuania’s independence taken by the USSR State Council was subject to cancellation.

In an explanatory note on the bill, he also said that “there was no referendum on secession” of Lithuania from the USSR and “no transitional period was established for consideration of all contentious issues.”

“Just another day in the State Duma… United Russia MP Yevgeny Fyodorov has tabled a bill to revoke recognition of Lithuania’s independence,” tweeted Russia watcher Francis Scarr from BBC Monitoring.

“Fyodorov’s views are extreme even by the standards of Russian lawmakers, so I don’t expect this to go anywhere,” Scarr added.

However, Fyodorov’s draft bill comes at a sensitive time for the Baltic states, which are at the forefront of NATO’s help for the Ukrainian war effort against Russia and are worried about President Vladimir Putin’s future intentions.

In March, a former senior Russian officer, Igor Korochenko, raised the prospect on state television channel Russia-1 of Moscow seizing the Baltic states in response to NATO’s role in Ukraine.

Lithuania shares a border with Russia’s enclave of Kaliningrad and along with its Baltic neighbors, has been the scene of alliance drills to prepare for any Russian aggression. Last month, Lithuanian citizens raised nearly $5 million to purchase an advanced military drone for Ukraine.

In June 2015, Fyodorov claimed that Russia´s acknowledgment of the independence of the Baltic states was illegal, and spurred an investigation into the issue by the Russian state prosecutor.

Lithuania’s then foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, described the Moscow probe questioning his country’s legitimacy as an “absurd provocation.”

Newsweek has contacted the Lithuanian foreign ministry for comment.

Lithuanians celebrate in Vilnius on March 11, 1990, after the newly elected Parliament voted unanimously to change the name of the Soviet Baltic state to the “Republic of Lithuania,” becoming the first Soviet republic to proclaim its independence from the USSR. On June 8, 2022, United Russia MP Yevgeny Fyodorov tabled a bill claiming that the independence declaration was illegitimate.

Correction 6/9/22, 8.30am ET: The story has been corrected to state that Lithuania has a border with Russia, via the Kaliningrad enclave.

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