Staunton, April 23 – Several Russian nationalist portals have segments with the title “the new is the well-forgotten old.” That is certainly proving to be true with some of the ideological tropes that Russian commentators are trying out now. Much of what they say appears to be little more than an updated version of an earlier Russian propaganda theme.
Two decades ago, Moscow propagandists in 1994-1995 spread the notion that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had organized a group of “Baltic amazons” to fight on the side of the Chechens against the Russian Federation. Now, the descendants of these propagandists are talking about Lithuania taking the lead in forming what they call “a Baltic caliphate.”
On the Russian nationalist portal about the Baltic region, Aleksandr Nosovich says that Lithuania’s offer to take in Crimean Tatars who refuse to live “’under Russian occupation’” in fact is nothing but a plot to receive and organize “representatives of radical Islamism”.
Such a step, he continues, “is nothing new” for the Lithuanians.
Gediminas Kirkilas, the vice speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, on March 24, asked the Lithuanian government to take in several dozen Crimean Tatars s refugees. The next day, Adas Yakubauskas, the head of the Lithuanian Union of Tatar Communities who represents the Crimean Tatar Mejlis in Vilnius, said such a step was absolutely necessary given Russian oppression.
But according to Nosovich, the people Lithuania plans to take in are not real refugees but rather “supporters of radical Islam.” He cited in support of that contention the statement of one Crimean Tatar official who supports the new Russian order who said that any Crimean Tatar who leaves now “is not a Tatar or a Muslim” but rather an Islamist radical.
They are motivated, this Crimean Tatar reportedly said, by the fact that groups like the Islamic Party of Liberation and Hizb ut-Tahrir, which have operated more or less freely in Crimea when it was part of Ukraine, are banned in Russia and thus will be closed down by the new Russian authorities.
Because of these Russian laws, Nosovich says, activists from Hizb ut-Tahrir “have sought to find countries, special services and in general governments who are more tolerant of the ideas of radical Islamism, and it is not surprising that one of these countries is Lithuania, for whose leadership support of Islamist fanatics is already a tradition.”
In support of that contention, Nosovich cites the case of a Lithuanian who was arrested in Moscow “on the eve of the terrorist acts in the Moscow metro,” who said he wanted to blow himself up and kill as many people as possible, and who when extradited to Lithuania served only ten months instead of ten years for his crimes. The Lithuanian in question, the Russian writer says, had been recruited by Islamists in his home country.
Earlier, in 2001, Nosovich continues, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus gave the son of Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev Lithuanian citizenship “for special services.” When that came out, the Russian commentator says, there was outrage because it turned out that the other son of Dudayev had been printing up and distributing false Lithuanian and EU passports.
And the Russian commentator continues, one should not forget “the extremist site, Kavkaz-tsentr, which was based at one time in Estonia and another in Lithuania,” the willingness of Baltic countries to take in Chechen fighters, and the renaming of streets and squares there in honor of Dudayev.
Obviously, it is not so much that the Baltic governments are partisans of Islamist extremism, Nosovich says. Rather they are prepared to make use of anyone who will conduct “an anti-Russian policy.” And he notes that some Ukrainians of the “Right Sector” now have a training camp outside of Riga, one that US Senator John McCain “recently visited.”
Nosovich’s article is intended to discredit the Crimean Tatars, to isolate Lithuania and the other Baltic states from the West, and to spark anger within these countries among groups Moscow may seek to exploit against the Baltic governments. As such, they should be monitored and rejected as false just as earlier Moscow claims about the “Baltic amazons” were.