After the controversial Belarusian general elections in August 2020, Lithuania was among the first countries to condemn the violent repressions of Belarusian forces against peaceful protesters and take a clear stance on the election results by calling for new elections.
Lithuania has shown a strong support of the Belarusian civil society as soon as the violent crackdown on the anti-government protesters begun on the 9th of August 2020, following the election day. On his Twitter, Lithuanian foreign minister called the repressions against protesters “inconceivable.” Lithuanian officials also communicated the support by granting a yearlong visa to opposition candidate Svetlana Tsikhanouyska, who was forced to fled Belarus to Lithuania, as well as opening its borders for Belarusian protesters despite Covid-19 border restrictions. Furthermore, Lithuanian prime minister met with Tsikhanouyska and promised her that alongside Latvia, Estonia and Poland, they will do everything in order to secure free and fair elections in Belarus.
The help of Lithuania to the Belarusian society did not stop there. On the 18th of August the Parliament voted in favour of sanctions against the regime embodied in Lukashenka and emphasized the importance of not recognizing the election results internationally. But it was not only the government officials who have shown the solidarity to the Belarusian civil society but also ordinary Lithuanians. They joined the efforts of their officials and created a 34 km long human chain from central Vilnius to the Belarusian border as a gesture of support.
In terms of the EU‘s action on the Belarusian crisis, Lithuania has called upon the EU to act faster in order to deal with it. In one of the interviews, Lithuanian foreign affairs minister even stated that the lack of EU‘s activity towards Belarus may undermine the overall EU Foreign Policy. The Lithuanian officials further suggested imposing sanctions directly on the leaders of the Belarusian regime and the perpetrators of violence instead of the country as a whole.
The current situation, however, is not the first time Lithuania has aided the Belarusian civil society. In 2004, a free-thinking European Humanities University was shut down by Lukashenka, only to become a university in exile in Lithuania. A lot of members of the student body are still Belarusian nationals.
Recently, Lukashenka has announced that Belarus will put an army on the borders and close them with both Poland and Lithuania. He claimed that he does that in order to protect Belarusian people form war, which may be initiated by its neighbouring countries. However, he did not talk about Latvia, who is also a NATO member. Later on, these statements were disregarded by the Lithuanian prime minister as he claimed no such order has been issued on the borders, but retaliatory measures on the Lithuanian side would be taken and borders will close, if such occasion occurs. Nevertheless, the Lithuanian stance did not change and continues to support new general elections in Belarus.
Although Lithuanian officials are advocating a strong and supportive stance towards Belarusian civil society, there are some, who fear the consequences of such a stance. One of them may include Lukashenka’s initiative to push for completion of a nuclear power plant Astravets, which is located relatively close to Vilnius and has been a source of problem for some time now. Another one includes Russian intervention in Belarus or the fear of loss of Lithuanian investments within Belarus, as Lithuania is among the ten largest investors in Belarus.