Briefs

Lithuania: 29 August-4 September 2016

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A Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website continues to claim that Lithuania’s blacklisting of Russian pop singer Oleg Gozmanov proves the government’s inadequacy. 

Event: On 30 August, the Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website ekspertai.eu reported again on blacklisted Russian pop singer Oleg Gozmanov, who was refused entry to Lithuania on 18 August at Vilnius airport because of his nationalistic songs. The website continues to support Gozmanov’s argument that the Lithuanian government’s decision was baseless. It also publicized his warning to sue Lithuania. According to ekspertai.eu, it is not clear how the words of Gozmanov’s song Made in the USSR could provoke or endanger Lithuanian society. ”Members of the Lithuanian government were also born in the Soviet Union,” said Gozmanov—a suggestion that they, too, have Soviet roots. The website republished Gozmanov’s interview of 30 August with Russia’s sobesednik.ru. Two other pro-Kremlin sites—rubaltic.ru and regnum.ru—also criticized Lithuania’s denial of entry to Gozmanov.

The false facts or narrative: In his interview with sobesednik.ru, Gozmanov expressed his indignation at the Lithuanian government for refusing him entry and vowed to sue the government for undermining his fundamental right—the freedom of expression—and for blacklisting him (he owns an apartment in Latvia but cannot live there for this reason). Gozmanov said he intends to seek Moscow’s assistance in filing legal claims against both Lithuania and Latvia. 

Reality on the ground: On 18 August, pop singer Gozmanov—known for his song Made in the USSR and others that glorify the Soviet Union and support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—was banned from entering Lithuania after arriving in Vilnius on a flight from Moscow. In December 2013, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry had declared Gozmanov persona non grata for having incited discord and “showing disrespect for Lithuania's history” by performing a song that praised the Soviet Union during a concert in Vilnius. Russia’s Foreign Ministry, which has its own persona non grata list, called Gozmanov “a hostage to petty political ambitions” and said the ban would affect Russia’s relations with Lithuania. 
 
The Kremlin pays Russian pop singers as Gozmanov to give concerts in former Soviet republics. This is part of Russian public diplomacy, which employs artists to keep “Russian values” and strengthen the “Russian world” abroad in line with achieving the Kremlin’s geopolitical goals in the region. As such, the idea is to boost Russian ethnic loyalty to the Kremlin and its policies rather than help integrate those ethnic Russians with their home societies. In 2014, Latvia blacklisted Gozmanov, arguing that, through his words and actions, he had undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Techniques
  • Half-truths; 
  • false interpretation; 
  • no proof. 

Audience: Lithuanian and Russian-speaking segments of society in Lithuania, the Baltics and the West; Russian society. 

Impact and analysis: Eskpertai.eu continues to argue that Lithuanian authorities are paranoid and that their decisions are inadequate. The Kremlin aims to undermine popular support for the Lithuanian government by weakening its credibility and dividing Lithuanian society. It will likely not drop the topic of Lithuania’s refusal of entry to Gozmanov, who hinted that with Moscow’s help, he would sue Lithuania in court. Russia can therefore claim that it not only protects the interests of its citizens abroad, but also that it follows international law on human rights. Yet ekspertai.eu offers no background information about the aggressiveness of Russian cultural diplomacy in Lithuania, which tries to keep alive the memory of a common Soviet history as well as cultural values as a means of preserving Russian influence.