On the first day of the visit to Kyiv, Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis met with his Ukrainian counterpart, drew attention to Crimea
On 23 February in Kyiv, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Gabrielius Landsbergis met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, the Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphanius I, and relatives of Ukrainian citizens unlawfully imprisoned in Russia.
The Foreign Ministers also attended a virtual discussion organised by Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Turkey on human rights violations in the illegally-annexed Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia, and international responses to this. The debate took place on the margins of the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Landsbergis highlighted Russia’s responsibility for systematic repression of human rights defenders, journalists, and civil society representatives, especially Crimean Tatars. Lithuania's Foreign Minister called on the international community to keep exerting political pressure on Russia, demanding to protect human rights, to release all Ukrainian citizens unlawfully imprisoned in the country, as well as to provide free and unhindered access to international human rights monitoring missions.
"The European Court of Human Rights has decided that Russia exercised effective control over Crimea as from 27 February 2014. This dispels the myth of “a peaceful and legitimate accession of Crimea to Russia”. This strong legal argument proves the fact of Russia's military aggression in Crimea. Thus, we must take further steps to hold Russia responsible for human rights violations on the peninsula," said Landsbergis.
The meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Lithuania and Ukraine focused on bilateral relations, Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine, the situation in Georgia, Russia and Belarus, and preparations for the upcoming Ukraine Reform Conference.
Landsbergis highlighted Lithuania’s consistent support for Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and the necessary reforms. The Ministers also discussed preparations for the next Eastern Partnership summit. “We have to strive for an ambitious Eastern Partnership agenda and offer the prospect for a gradual integration of associated partners in the EU's internal market,” said Landsbergis. The meeting also addressed the fight against disinformation, initiatives of shared historical memory, and further cooperation in the Lublin Triangle format.
As regards the COVID-19 pandemic, Lithuania expressed its understanding of the lack of vaccine availability in Ukraine. Landsbergis, together with the other 12 foreign ministers of the EU, requested the European Commission to set up a support mechanism to allow the Eastern Partnership countries to secure access to COVID-19 vaccine. Lithuania will also offer assistance to Ukraine as soon as it has the opportunity and is ready to share the vaccine.
In the meeting with the Metropolitan Epiphanius I and relatives of Ukrainian citizens unlawfully imprisoned in Russia, Landsbergis noted the importance of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Relatives of Ukrainian citizens unlawfully detained and imprisoned in Russia, including a number of Crimean Tatars, told Landsbergis about harsh prison conditions in Russia and called for continued international pressure on Russia demanding the release of prisoners.
“Lithuania constantly remembers about Ukrainian citizens unlawfully imprisoned in Russia and raises the issue of their release with international organisations,” said Landsbergis.
These shocking stories remind us about the experiences of Ukrainians on the battlefield. The enemy not only violates human rights, but seems to reject them altogether, undermines international obligations regarding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as tramples Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian believers' religious freedom. This is contrary to the European values.