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  Occupation damage: not a single stepforward…

Èeslovas Iðkauskas, political analyst
2008 02 21

On the eve of 13 January, the Day of Defenders of Freedom, President of Lithuania V.Adamkus said: „we will never relinquish our demand to acknowledge Lithuania’s soviet occupation and compensate for the damages suffered; but we will also seek a dialogue with Russia (...) Such a dialogue with Russiawill be sincere only if it is based on common principles and values.“

Moscow has immediately responded to these words. L.Slucky, a member of Duma Committee of Foreign Affairs, said that „the statement like this is nothing but schizophrenia. Occupation is a subject for historians and not for the current politicians“.

When quoting the parliamentarian, www.Grani.ru recalls the words of V.Putin about the Baltic states said in May of 2005: „the Baltic States will get the ears of the dead donkey“.  This was a reply to the then Latvian claims concerning Pytalovo district in Russia.

A bit earlier, after the European Union - Russian summit in Moscow arranged on the occasion of 60th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, V.Putin again couldn‘t cope with his emotions. He promised to sign the border agreement with Estonia and Latvia if the agreements were not followed „by silly territorial demands“. Then he urged Latvian politicians „to stop dissemination of demagogy and start constructive work“.

During the same press conference V.Putin has further developed his thoughts: „What is your suggestion – to divide everything once again? Return Crimea to Russia and part of other former territories of the Soviet Union? Then return Klaipeda land to us and let‘s make another division of Europe“. Concerning the occupation he said: „the Soviet Union could not occupy the Baltic States, since in 1939 the states have already been part of the USSR“.

Three years have passed since then and territorial passions seem to have calmed. However, demands on recognition of the soviet occupation are still here, as well as on the payment for damage caused by the soviet and Nazi occupations. This time a new fire has been set by the Lithuanian leader. Lithuania raised the issue of damage of the soviet occupation after the referendum, where citizens of Lithuania expressed their will on the payment for the damage. The Commission established by the Seimas defined that the total sum of the occupation damage is about 28 billion US$. In June 2000 the Lithuanian Parliament adopted the Law „On the Payment for Damage Caused by the USSR Occupation“, however, the Government has not taken actual steps regarding execution of this Law.

A year ago a group of the Lithuanian parliamentarians elaborated a draft resolution stating that Russia, the successor of the rights and commitments of the USSR, should pay for persons injured and families of the killed on 13 January 1991. Then Prime Minister G.Kirkilas explained to the agency Interfax that the idea to demand the payment from Russia was untimely, since there was no goodwill dialogue between Lithuania and Russia.

In October of last year 12 parliamentarians suggested a draft Decree by which the Government was committed to elaborate, by 15 March 2008, an effective strategy for solving the problem related to the payment for damage. But this time the minister of foreign affairs had doubts and said that „it is not good to talk with Russia in the language of ultimatum; Russia has to be convinced that it is beneficial to the country as well“.

The Russian politicians and media are very glad to observe the contraposition of views in Lithuania on this very sensitive issue.

Lithuania is not the only country having claims to the successor of the USSR. A few years ago the then leader of Latvia V.Freiberga said that Riga was also elaborating demands on the payment for damage caused by the soviet occupation. However, Moscow does not want to accept the very fact of the occupation and is not going to neither compensate the damage nor relate the problem to possible negotiations.

By the way, the above demand has been expressed not only by the Baltic States. Several Moldovan public organizations extended their demands on the damage caused by the occupation of Bessarabia.  Even Afghanistan started talking on the payment for the loss incurred by the ten years of the soviet war.

According to the international rights specialists, in case if Russia recognizes the fact of occupation, the states – victims of the USSR - could apply on the payment for damage to international organizations and courts. Unfortunately, so far “the carriage” of the historical justice has not made a single move forward.

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