25 years ago, on 14 May 1993, Lithuania became a member of the Council of Europe – an organization whose goal is to protect human rights and support democracy. But nowadays the Lithuanian Republic is more akin to North Korea. The ruling class has started a hunt on journalists, public figures and politicians who speak out against the government, pointing out their clear failures, mishaps and crimes. For example, a Facebook post can get you two years of prison in this Council of Europe member-state. During the anniversary of Lithuania joining the organization, RuBaltic.Ru talked with Lithuania blogger Simonas ZAGURSKIS about human rights in the republic, including freedom of speech.
— Mr. Zagurskis, the states that you came to Lithuania from the UK in April 2018. You have been arrested for 7 days and now can’t leave the country because of charges against you. Is this true?
— Exactly. I’ve been living in the United Kingdom for 17 years. When I was in the UK, I was out of reach for Lithuanian special services. The charges against me were presented in January 2018 and resulted in the arrest warrant. When it happened I was in England and didn’t know about the case. I had planned to stay in Lithuania for no longer than 5 days. Now it seems like I’m stuck here.
Lithuanian special services knew that my passport would be expired soon and that I would need to get a new one. I went to Lithuania, got arrested and sent to prison. My documents, computer, mobile phone, etc. were taken by the police. Now I’m under full control of Lithuania’s legal machine and can’t leave the country without documents.
I feel like a foreigner here. I have no passport and my rights are seriously limited. There are problems when going to the hospital or renting a house formally, etc.
— Can you please explain the situation? What were the charges and the arrest?
— About one and a half years ago, I published a story on Facebook about the snipers in the Vilnius events in January 1991. They were Afghanistan veterans of Lithuanian origin. I wrote that the American PR company Edelman managed the Vilnius events. Moreover, the Vilnius events of January 1991 and the Kiev Maidan, Libya, Guatemala, Chile and so on had a lot in common. They were also PR projects.
Snipers – Lithuanian former criminals with military experience in the Afghanistan war – were promised 1000$ per night. However, they were paid only 200$. Some of the Lithuanians who were involved in this matter said that some of the snipers committed suicide because of the pressure.
On the 13 January 1991, the snipers were on the roofs. I don’t know how many people there were. Their aim was to shoot into the crowd and create panic. On the other end, there were Soviet Union soldiers. The confrontation had been intentionally organized. Foreign media like BBC and CNN filmed Lithuanian people pushed to the Soviet tanks. Then it was shown to the world.
I wrote on Facebook that Vilnius events were a paid event and our Sąjūdis movement was nothing more than KGB project. I also said that our former communists became pro-American overnight because the Soviet Union collapsed and USA offered them money.
I also mentioned that it became possible because of an agreement between America and Russia. Probably, the US got the Baltic States in exchange for Russian control on the Middle East. Basically, that was planned 25-30 years ago.
I explained to the Lithuanian readers that Lithuania couldn’t decide anything because Russians and Americans had made the decision for them. Third parties held power and Lithuania had been used as a puppy dog to go against the Russian Bear and provoke a conflict.
Of course, I said that it was just an assumption, a possibility.
I wrote an article about that. Then it was deleted from Facebook. However, Lithuanian Conservatives has the hacker group Yorkshire Elves at their service. This group created a fake profile similar to mine, uploaded the fake article and reported “my post” to the Lithuanian police.
— What is the main reason of the persecution? Why do they need you?
— Lithuanian secret services want to use my case to show Lithuanians who live abroad what can happen if you write something contrasting the Lithuanian official propaganda.
Today, around 1 million Lithuanians live the US, about 300 thousand – in England, 200 thousand in Norway and Sweden, 50 thousand in Ireland.
My case is a message for them, sent by the Lithuanian special services, to stay silent. You can’t speak freely in Lithuanian now. The atmosphere is similar to one in North Korea. Many people have been arrested. I’m not alone in such a predicament.
Now in Lithuania we have the next scandal. The President ordered to our VSD (State Security Department of Lithuania – note. RuBaltic.Ru) to spy on journalists. There is a possibility that my case is directly controlled by the Presidential administration and VSD chiefs. But I only provided leaked information and said that there is a high chance this info is true.
— What is the wording of the accusation?
— The wording is that I was mocking at Vilnius events. They say that I distressed the people who had been affected by this case. But legally the trial of the January 1991 has not finished yet. The Lithuanian conservative party, which is enforcing Russophobia in the country, stated at the government level that it is illegal to think and to write about anything which is connected to that case.
I have just explained that version of events. But they said I’m a Kremlin agent paid by Russia. Now I can get 1-2 years in prison for that. All that time I won’t be able to leave Lithuania and do anything. All my family live in the UK.
— Did you write in Lithuanian or in English on your Facebook account?
— In Lithuanian. The main point is that everything you write on Facebook is covered by US jurisdiction. So you can’t be prosecuted if you are not in the US. But it is happening in Lithuania.
— Recently many cases of political persecution and arrests happened in Lithuania. How do you think all these cases have something in common? Who is the attack aimed against?
— Even the leader of the Lithuanian ruling party was accused of having connections with Russia.
There is a secret list with 2-3 thousand Lithuanians who are living in the US. When they come to Lithuania for whatever reason they can be arrested like me. There is no strong data protection act in Lithuania. So Yorkshire Elves have sources in banks and registry offices. They are leaking data from these sources to see who owns the businesses or the buildings, etc.
Even Donald Trump ordered the Lithuanian President to be friendlier with Russia because we are neighbors and there are economic reasons.
Official media kept silent about that. The President controls the media, judges, prosecutors and military services. The Lithuanian majority wants normal relations with Russia and Belarus, with Lithuanians in England and the United States. But they are not allowed to work with Russia.
When you leave Lithuania, you understand that people in the country are lied to about the Russian attack.
— There are cases with politicians, journalists and public figures. Are all this cases interconnected? Are they pieces of a bigger picture?
— There is a criminal group which rules Lithuania. There is a small amount of people from our conservative group. The party has only 12% of the parliament and controls the media, military, courts, police and other power channels. They are former KGB agents and spies. If you say something differing from their position, you automatically get labeled a Kremlin spy.
There is a high chance that Russia will give incriminating evidence against this group. Conservatives understand that threat and say that everything is faked. There are many strange things about this group, in fact.
During the Soviet times, people like Vytautas Landsbergis were allowed to fly to England, India and other countries. The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius was a chief of Young Communist Movement (Komsomol) in Soviet times. Now he is against all things Russian.
Two years ago, our military expenditures were 0.7% of the GDP. Now it is 2%. Soon it will be 2.5% because of the “Russian Threat”.
What really happens is that America or Germany send military scrap, Lithuania pays for that and sends it to Ukraine – tanks, electronic equipment, rockets, etc. – to the Donbass. Lithuania helps Ukraine and pays for them. Ultimately, Lithuanian prisons are horrible, salaries and pensions are low. If you write about that, you also will be persecuted and arrested.
Now there are 3 cases against me. They are connected with former KGB agents.
Yesterday I was questioned about one of them. Official journalist, KGB agent, spying inside the basketball team Kauno Žalgiris when they were travelling overseas during Soviet time. Everybody knew about this. But the deal is that now this journalist is pro-American. He says I don’t know anything; I hate Russia, blah-blah-blah…
I published this information and was taken to court to say that it was not true and he hadn’t been a KGB spy.
Soon there will be another scandal. Lithuanian President is in this one. 2400 passports were sold to the South-African Jews. They have nothing to do with Lithuania, they’ve never been here. They don’t speak Lithuanian. In exchange Lithuania may get support from Israel.
— Why does the Conservative party do that? What is their ultimate goal?
— They are funded by some American groups and act in their interests. They have connections with the Clinton office. I think they are controlled by Clinton’s fundraisers. They also hate what Donald Trump is doing.
The mission of this group is to go against Russia, Belarus, Poland, against everyone. They want to organize the same regime in Lithuania that took place in Albania 30 years ago. The criminal group wants to prevail over the current government.
Nobody can understand this. A party which only has 15% support has about 60% of influence on the Lithuanian economy. It gives out orders and controls everything in the country.
The article that lead to my arrest was talking about that. The conservative party is supported by big business. Our current government is under attack. People wanted this government. But it can’t control many fields of Lithuanian life due to corruption.
The funniest thing is that people who live in western countries want Lithuania to have good connections with Russia. But people who don’t care about business, but have power don’t want this, because they won’t be needed anymore. For example, because of Russia’s embargo Lithuania is losing 40% of export GDP. But Lithuania needs this trade and business.
The same case is with the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. Lithuania rents the ship, buys the gas from America. But it is from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia originally. Russia can sell gas at two times cheaper. Because of politics we pay 2-3 times more.
A small conservative group says Lithuania has to support Ukrainians and carry on the propaganda against Russians. However, we have thousands of Ukrainian truck drivers and builders who came to work in Lithuania. These people speak in Russian, they don’t speak Lithuanian. It’s ironic.
Ukrainian people from peaceful regions like L’viv or Ivano-Frankovsk are coming to Lithuania. We have government funded programs which are paid by Brussels, while our politicians create offshore companies that get money for helping Ukrainians “with war”.
The US does that in Lithuania because they are threatened by German technology and Russian resources. Baltic States are a buffer zone between East and West. So this is a proxy war between two big superpowers.
— Can the situation in Lithuania change after the elections?
— No. The group in power in Lithuania is a criminal group. They break all the rules to get absolute control in Lithuania but, in fact, they don’t care for the country.
People who can do something are Lithuanians living overseas. They have access to alternative media that cannot be blocked, while local journalists are corrupted and can’t do anything. Lithuanians abroad publish a lot of information about corruption in Lithuania. We want to stop things like Russophobia and reopen connection with Russia, Belarus and all our neighbors.
For example, I have influence on the Lithuanian politics. I wrote about corruption scandals, how the EU gave money which was stolen by Lithuanian officials. As a result many officials lost their jobs or were removed from the government at all.
— On the 14 May 1993, Lithuania joined the Council of Europe whose main goal is to protect human rights, democracy and so on. How do you think Lithuania follow the founding principles of Council of Europe nowadays?
Not at all. We are like under the Stalin now. Lithuania pays huge compensations and fines to victims of the regime. If the Higher Court in Strasburg decides that Lithuania should pay the fines, they are paid with money of Lithuanian tax payers.
Lithuania nowadays doesn’t follow any rules.
Baltic States are used as a cheap labor source to send qualified workers with a European mentality to Western Europe. That was the reason why Baltic States got their EU membership and joined other framework organizations.
— Does it mean that Western countries close their eyes on the crimes and affronts because they don’t want to lose their profit from the Baltic States? Why there is no official reaction?
First of all, because everything is hidden. People just stay in prisons, sometimes they are even killed by the system. Journalists are killed or simply disappear.
But normally people are prosecuted and pay bails. Their lives are crushed with huge fines. Then people are forced to plead guilty to be left alone. That happens.
— Can this be changed in the near future?
There is a possibility. But it is not about government. The Lithuanian government is very good. If it controls main the prosecution and military services, judge systems, the situation will be changed. At the moment it is hardly possible.