Pro-Kremlin members of public cause unrest at Russian tank site in Vilnius

The knocked-out T-72 tank in Cathedral Square, Vilnius.
The knocked-out T-72 tank in Cathedral Square, Vilnius. Source: ERR

While a T-72 Russian tank knocked out and captured during the invasion of Ukraine arrived in Tallinn for public display last Saturday, Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, has a similar exhibit.

ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported that just as some members of the public have attempted to lay flowers, including the signal Soviet red carnations, on the Tallinn tank, the same has happened in Vilnius.

The Vilnius tank, also a T-72 model, arrived in Cathedral Square on February 24, the first anniversary of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. The arrival was almost immediately followed by a confrontation between those seeking to place flowers on or near the tank, and the Lithuanian police, with the bulk of the public in general supporting the latter and opposing any carnation-laying.

Oksana, a Ukrainian refugee residing now in Lithuania, told AK that: "I don't think it's the case that [red carnations] offer respect to the memory of fallen Russian soldiers. These are no soldiers, they are 'orcs'. They are conquerer, who have invaded a foreign country. What kind of soldier is that?"

A well-know comic in Lithuania, Paulius Ambrazevicius, went so far as to take a trash can, to discard unwanted flowers, candles and other Soviet-era paraphernalia into, while two other individuals placed a toilet bowl next to the tank, in order to give the pro-Kremlin attendees something to pilfer – in a direct reference to Russian soldiers in Ukraine who in occupied areas have been observed essentially taking anything which was not nailed down, and indeed many things which were, including not only washing machines but also toilets.

At the same time, one of those opposing the flower bearers stressed to AK that the Lithuanian police should not act with undue harshness, if only because those bringing carnations have in effect been brainwashed by the Russian media and so don't have an accurate overview of the actual course of events in Ukraine.

"We should try to educate these characters, not scare them away with the threat of fines," one Vilnius resident told AK.

The Lithuaninan military police have joined their civilian counterparts in maintaining order around the tank's site; fines have been reported of up to €700 in the most serious cases, while misdemeanor proceedings have been opened up against those bringing flowers to place on or near the tank.

Lithuania's president, Gitanas Nauseda, meanwhile welcomed the T-72's presence in the capital, saying: "It was essential that we see how the 'Vatniks' start arriving, bringing flowers and reading out all kinds of supplications."

Vatnik is a perjorative term, including in Russia itself, referring to those who uncritically swallow Kremlin propaganda wholesale.

"This is a good thing, because then it makes it completely clear who is who, in Lithuania. The tank itself is also essential to have. It reminds us of Ukraine's suffering, but not only its suffering, its successes as well," Nauseda said.

According to the latest opinion polls, 10 percent of Lithuanian residents support Russia, AK reported, despite the fact that the Russian-speaking population of Lithuania is as a proportion of the whole, significantly smaller that Latvia and Estonia.

In Tallinn, too, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) have issued several misdemeanor proceedings against those who have similarly brought flowers to the tank, located in Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) through to March 2. Hellar Lill, head of the national war museum, overseeing the project, called the bringing of flowers or other pro-Kremlin paraphernalia "inappropriate"

The tank, knocked out in the early stages of the conflict, is to be taken on a tour of several other towns across Estonia, including the border city of Narva, before being installed in its final resting place, at the war museum's premises, in Viimsi.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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