Dreaming of Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth and Russia in focus

The morning before  Brexit. As our British readers might wake up feeling nostalgic for one union, Vilnius and Warsaw are remembering another one – the Lithuanian–Polish Commonwealth.

“We are heading toward something we had before the Battle of Grunwald [in 1410] or the Battle of Orsha [in 1514],” said Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundis Karoblis.

So why the historical longing?

It has some very present-day realities. During the first joint Polish–Lithuanian Defence Council held in Vilnius on Wednesday, the two countries agreed to “train and act” together to defend the Suwalki Gap.

The 80 kilometre stretch connecting Lithuania (and the Baltic states) with Poland is flanked by Russia’s Kaliningrad and Belarus, and NATO has expressed worries that if seized during a conflict, it may cut off the Baltics from the rest of the Alliance. Vilnius and Warsaw will each assign a brigade to the NATO headquarters in Poland.

As the tariff stand-off between Moscow and Minsk  continues  , Belarus has called for a third of the country’s oil to come via the Baltic states. The first large shipment of Norwegian oil  departed   Lithuania for Belarus last week.


The Lithuanian parliament is  moving   to impeach MP Irina Rozova over her undisclosed ties with Russian diplomats. However, a parliamentary investigation is yet to conclude, and the opposition is  pushing   for the impeachment proceedings to go ahead regardless.


In a final bit of news on Russia and the Baltics, the Lithuanian foreign minister  welcomed   EU adding seven more individuals to its sanction list. Meanwhile, Russian-language TV content in Lithuania has recently  decreased   due to “geopolitical reasons,” according to one TV channel.


Despite Israelis  hoping   politics wouldn’t overshadow the Holocaust commemoration, Russia’s spat with Poland is turning ugly.

In short (bear with us), Putin claimed Poland was responsible for starting the Second World War. Poland called out Russia for trying to rewrite history, but was not given a platform to speak at the Yad Vashem event in Jerusalem. The polish president skipped the event and the Lithuanian president  followed   suite in solidarity with Warsaw. Duda and Nausėda went to the  commemoration   in Auschwitz instead, where the latter  called   “to look for truth” amid the dispute with Moscow. The saga then engulfed the Ukrainian president who called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Soviet Union and Nazi Germany a “collusion,” which left the Kremlin  fuming  . Haaretz criticised Istael’s own involvement in the dispute by “   selling  ” Holocaust legacy to Putin.

Meanwhile, Dutch PM Mark Rutte apologised for the country’s complicity in the Holocaust during the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation. Does it have any  effect   on Lithuania’s own complicated relationship with the past?


Media funding laws are being  compared   to “censorship” by opposition MPs, Lithuania plans to  ban   flavoured e-cigarettes, and the country is moving to  strengthen   environmental regulations after a spate of high-profile pollution scandals.


… and all for Lithuania. The slogan of a new political party  emerging   in the Lithuanian parliament is being compared to the Three Musketeers, a label that the founding members are quite happy with.


Coronavirus latest: Lithuania will not  evacuate   its citizens from China for now, despite there  being   several Lithuanians in Wuhan. Health specialists are now on  stand-by   at Lithuanian airports, and several domestic travel agencies have  suspended   trips to China. The country is also considering  installing   thermal sensors to prevent the spread of the virus.


Meanwhile, Vilnius was  picked   as one of the healthiest capital cities in Europe after recently  celebrating   its 697th anniversary with a festival of lights and Jedi Grand Dukes.


In Croatia, 12 people  carry   the surname Lithuania. Almost as many derive their surnames from the words ‘hen’, ‘buttocks’ or ‘salad’. There are also 56 registered Drakulas.


Ending on a more somber note, Professor Edvardas Gudavičius, the founder of modern Lithuanian historiography, has  passed away   on Monday at the age of 90.


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