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Lithuania summons Russian diplomat over sea border expansion

Lithuania has agreed to buy 18 howitzers from France
Lithuania has agreed to buy 18 howitzers from France - Copyright AFP Emmanuel DUNAND
Lithuania has agreed to buy 18 howitzers from France - Copyright AFP Emmanuel DUNAND

Lithuania said Wednesday it has summoned a Russian diplomatic envoy over plans to unilaterally extend Russia’s maritime border into Lithuanian and Finnish territory, warning the move could be a hybrid warfare tactic.

Lithuania’s foreign ministry said it was “summoning a representative of the Russian Federation for a full explanation”. Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said her government was “following the situation”. 

“We don’t have any official information of what Russia is planning,” she told reporters. 

Lithuania expelled Russia’s ambassador and downgraded diplomatic relations with Moscow in April 2022 in response to atrocities discovered in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

According to a draft Russian defence ministry resolution published on Tuesday, Moscow plans to change its Baltic Sea maritime border with Finland and Lithuania from January 20225. The new geographical coordinates would see Moscow declaring Finnish and Lithuanian sea areas as Russian.

Russia’s borders in the Kaliningrad region and the Gulf of Finland would be altered, according to the document. 

“The Russian Federation is also a member and party to the UN Convention on maritime borders. We only expect Russia to respect that convention,” Valtonen said. 

“It should be remembered that causing confusion is also hybrid influence. Finland will not be confused,” she wrote on X, the former Twitter.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said: “Another Russian hybrid operation is underway, this time attempting to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea.

“This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU, and must be met with an appropriately firm response,” he said on X.

Speaking on a visit to Lithuania, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius also said the Russian plan “seems to be another example of the very perfidious kind of hybrid warfare that Putin is conducting”. 

“Uncertainty, provocation, retraction, relativisation, driving a wedge, threats — in other words, the whole repertoire,” he said.

– ‘Nothing political’ –

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the country’s ambassador to NATO has expressed concerns to allies over the Russian plans.

Nauseda told reporters that the move may be “part of Russia’s broader actions against NATO”.

“It is a flagrant, blatant violation of international law not only to denounce the treaty, but even to speak or disseminate information of this nature,” he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters there was “nothing political” about the move, “although the political situation has changed a lot since 1985” – the year the Russian territorial waters were demarcated.

“You can see what the level of confrontation is at the moment, especially in the Baltic region. This requires the appropriate bodies to take the appropriate measures to ensure our security,” Peskov said.

A Lithuanian foreign ministry statement urged Russia “to respect and abide by the universally recognised principles and norms of international law, in particular UN Convention on the Law on Sea”.

Finnish President Alexander Stubb, who oversees foreign policy, wrote on X that “Russia had not been in contact with Finland on the matter”. 

The Russian defence ministry said the move was necessary because the current coordinates “do not fully correspond to the current geographical situation”.

burs-fec/hmn/tw

AFP
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