Culture minister advises Russian envoy to talk to municipalities over soldiers graves

Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson

Lithuanian Culture Minister Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson on Tuesday met with Russia's ambassador to Vilnius, Alexander Udaltsov, to discuss issues of importance to both countries and cooperation in the field of culture.

The topics discussed included the maintenance of Lithuanian deportees' mass graves in Russia and of burial sites of World War II soldiers in Lithuania, the Culture Ministry said.

"The culture minister pointed out that this activity is regulated by legislation. The maintenance of graves falls within municipal powers and, therefore, agreement needs to be sought with local authorities in this matter," it said in a press release.

The minister also asked the ambassador to help ensure that the administration of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and the region's History and Art Museum "pay more attention" to the maintenance of the 18th century Lithuanian poet Kristijonas Donelaitis' museum in Kaliningrad.

The Lithuanian Cultural Heritage Department has recently imposed a fine of 1,500 euros on an organization named Forgotten Soldiers that has reburied Soviet soldiers in Vilnius' Antakalnis cemetery, saying that it failed to obtain, as required by the law, approvals from the ministries for foreign affairs and culture.

Vilnius officials say that the local authority issued permits to bury the remains, but the tombstone featuring a five-pointed star was not approved by the city's administration.

The organization says that the remains of the soldiers were found several years ago and, therefore, were reburied in accordance with earlier legislation.

Some 275,000 people were sent to forced labour camps and deported from Lithuania during 50 years of Soviet occupation.

Source: BNS
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