For free Russia. Political dissidents meet in Lithuania

‘Subversive activities aimed at destroying the Russian Federation and changing its leadership’ – in such a manner the Russian Embassy in Lithuania described the forum of political refugees and opposition which took place in Vilnius. Why does Lithuania support the Russian democratic opposition?

Last week seems to have been a week of a free Russia in Vilnius. First, the city authorities named the park near the Russian Embassy in honour of the killed opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Then the city hosted the Russian Forum in Vilnius and provided a venue for the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Forum of Free Russia – the association of Russian politicians, including political refugees persecuted in their homeland. According to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, such meetings are not of anti-Russian, but of pro-Russian nature. In his opinion, Russia is not only the Kremlin.

“It is important to us to have information on what can be done at the international level, in international organisations, what support we can provide, what aspects need our special attention,” said Linas Linkevičius.

“The future of Russia is impossible without getting rid of the burden of the dictatorship, of the regime which prevents Russia from returning to the family of civilized nations. [In Vilnius], there is a perfect platform to hold a dialogue that is impossible in Russia,” said Garry Kasparov, the organiser of the forum.

Lithuanian and Russian democrats helped each other even in the time of the Soviet Union.

“In Lithuania, Russian democrats had their first newspapers and leaflets printed and then sent to Moscow and Leningrad. In January 1991, when Soviet tanks were driving along Vilnius, half a million Russians took to Manezhnaya Square in Moscow with the slogan Hands off of Lithuania,” said deputy chairman of the movement Open Russia Vladimir Kara-Murza.

But the 1990s have receded into the historical distance. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is constantly moving away from democratic reforms. And the sanctions imposed in response to the Kremlin’s hybrid war against its neighboirs are weakening the Russian economy.

“What Russia falls short of as a result of sanctions is cutting-edge technology. This fact it notable in the oil industry,” said Leonid Nevzlin, a board member of the Forum of Free Russia.

But targeted sanctions against Putin’s oligarchs go to the benefit of Russia.

“We hope that this process will continue, that those people who parasitize on Russian citizens, steal money of Russian taxpayers, violate the rights of Russias, will be no longer able to use the democratic countries of the West as escape venues to get the stolen money to,” added Kara-Murza.

According to the Russian democratic opposition, their main aim is to prevent Putin-Medvedev government from bringing the country to a state of disaster, which may result in its disintegration.

Yaraslau Stseshyk; photo by Olivier Corsan/Le Parisien/Forum