Briefs

Lithuania - 15-21 August 2016

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A Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website states that Lithuania is paranoid, seeing enemies, traitors and secret agents everywhere.

Event: Journalist Vadim Volovoy, in his 18 August weekly news review in the Lithuanian-language, pro-Kremlin website eskpertai.eu, criticized Lithuania’s denial of entry to blacklisted Russian pop singer Oleg Gozmanov, whom the Vilnius government says poses a danger to society. This, said Volovoy, proves that Lithuania sees enemies, traitors and secret agents everywhere. Gozmanov’s songs glorify the Soviet Union and support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has an Italian-issued Schengen visa, which in theory allows free travel throughout the European Union. In addition to a joint Schengen blacklist, each Schengen member country maintains its own national blacklist.  

The false facts or narrative:  In protesting the denial of entry to Gozmanov, Volovoy argued that the singer’s pro-Kremlin performances do not constitute propaganda, and that Lithuanian authorities did not give a reasonable explanation why Gozmanov might endanger Lithuania’s national security. 

Reality on the ground: On 18 August, Gozmanov, known for his nationalist songs such as Made in the USSR, was banned from entering Lithuania after landing on a flight from Moscow to Vilnius. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Gozmanov was banned due to his “aggressive propaganda linked to Russia's aggressive activities against neighboring countries.” Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said Gozmanov became persona non grata in December 2013, when he incited “discord and showed disrespect for Lithuania's history” by performing a song glorifying the Soviet Union at a concert in Vilnius.  While singing Made in the USSR, he declared that Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus, Moldova, the South Caucasus and the Baltic states also are his countries because they belonged to the Soviet Union. Neighboring Latvia blacklisted Gozmanov in 2014, saying that, through his words and actions, he had contributed “to the undermining of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”  The Kremlin encourages and pays Russian pop singers as Gozmanov to give concerts in former Soviet republics. 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. 

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

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

Impact and analysis: The eskpertai.eu website continues a frequent theme: that Lithuanian authorities are paranoid and that their decisions are inadequate. Earlier the website claimed Lithuania was being paranoid because it participates in NATO and supports EU sanctions against Russia due to Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine. The Kremlin’s aim is to undermine popular support for the government by weakening its credibility. The website does not mention why Gozmanov is blacklisted. Russian sources also do not give background information about the aggressiveness of Russian culture diplomacy in Lithuania, which tries to keep alive the memory of a common Soviet history, culture and values as a way to preserve Russian influence.