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Lithuania summons Russian diplomat over sea border expansion

By AFP

May 22, 2024 08:47 PM


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Lithuania said Wednesday it has summoned a Russian diplomatic envoy over plans to unilaterally extend Russia's maritime border into Lithuanian and Finnish waters, warning the move could be a hybrid warfare tactic.

Lithuania's foreign ministry said it was "summoning a representative of the Russian Federation for a full explanation". Finland's Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told reporters her government was "following the situation".

"We don't have any official information of what Russia is planning," she said.

Lithuania expelled Russia's ambassador and downgraded its diplomatic relations with Moscow in April 2022 in response to atrocities discovered in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

According to a draft Russian defence ministry resolution published on Tuesday, Moscow plans to extend its territorial waters from January 2025 by changing its maritime border in the Baltic Sea with Finland and Lithuania.

The redefined geographical coordinates would see Moscow declaring Finnish and Lithuanian sea areas as Russian.

Russia's borders in the Kaliningrad region and the Gulf of Finland would be altered, according to the document.

"The Russian Federation is also a member and party to the UN Convention on maritime borders. We only expect Russia to respect that convention," Valtonen said.

"It should be remembered that causing confusion is also hybrid influence. Finland will not be confused," she wrote on X, the former Twitter.

Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said: "Another Russian hybrid operation is underway, this time attempting to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea.

"This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU, and must be met with an appropriately firm response," he said on X.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the country's ambassador to NATO has expressed concerns to allies over the Russian plans.

Nauseda told reporters that the move may be "part of Russia's broader actions against NATO".

"It is a flagrant, blatant violation of international law not only to denounce the treaty, but even to speak or disseminate information of this nature," he added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that there was "nothing political" about the move, "although the political situation has changed a lot since 1985" - the year the Russian territorial waters were demarcated.

"You can see what the level of confrontation is at the moment, especially in the Baltic region. This requires the appropriate bodies to take the appropriate measures to ensure our security."

A Lithuanian foreign ministry statement urged Russia "to respect and abide by the universally recognised principles and norms of international law, in particular UN Convention on the Law on Sea".

Finnish President Alexander Stubb, who oversees Finland's foreign policy, wrote on X that "Russia had not been in contact with Finland on the matter".

The Russian defence ministry said the move was necessary because the current coordinates "do not fully correspond to the current geographical situation".


AFP


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