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Lithuania takes bold steps to protect National security, revokes residency permits of more than 1,000 Belarusians and Russians

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VILNIUS, Lithuania – In a resolute move to safeguard its national security, Lithuania has made a significant decision to designate over a thousand citizens of Russia and Belarus living within its borders as threats to national security. The Lithuanian government has announced the revocation of their permanent residency permits following an extensive assessment of their responses to a comprehensive questionnaire. The questionnaire addressed their views on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the controversial status of Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

Lithuania, a staunch democratic Baltic nation that declared independence from the Soviet Union over three decades ago, holds membership in both NATO and the European Union. The country has been an unwavering supporter of Ukraine and has also provided refuge to many individuals fleeing authoritarian repression in neighboring Belarus and escalating repression in Russia.

The Migration Department of Lithuania, responsible for the assessment, disclosed that it scrutinized both public and non-public information to identify 1,164 Belarusian and Russian citizens deemed as potential threats to national security. Of this group, 910 were Belarusian citizens, and 254 were Russian citizens.

According to the government, the responses to the questionnaire played a pivotal role in the decision-making process concerning residence permits. It is important to note that the number of individuals identified as national security risks is merely a fraction of the total Belarusians and Russians residing in Lithuania. Presently, the country is home to over 58,000 Belarusian citizens and 16,000 Russian citizens, each required to periodically renew their residence permits based on the application status.

Individuals who have had their residency permits revoked have the option to appeal the decision through legal means. For those affected, the Migration Department has provided a timeframe of up to one month to leave the country in accordance with its guidelines.

As of now, the Russian and Belarusian governments have not issued immediate responses to Lithuania’s actions.

One Lithuanian citizen, Viktor Voroncov, a businessman who migrated from Russia, expressed his support for the government’s decisive action. He raised concerns about some Russian residents engaging in Kremlin propaganda and maintaining close ties with individuals in the Russian military.

“Lithuania is a democratic country and tolerates different views. Even their propaganda was acceptable until the war started, but things have changed, and they must go,” Voroncov asserted.

It is crucial to highlight that Lithuania also possesses an ethnic Russian minority, constituting about 5% of the population, who are Lithuanian citizens and were not required to participate in the questionnaire.

The move by Lithuania is a testament to its unwavering commitment to protect its national security and uphold democratic values, especially in the midst of ongoing geopolitical tensions in the region. Nevertheless, this decision has sparked discussions about the treatment of residents with diverse political views and backgrounds.

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