Most Lithuanians back PM's proposal to renew political ties with Russia - BNS/RAI survey

Saulius Skvernelis

The majority of Lithuanians support Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis' proposal to renew political contacts with Russia, according to a survey carried out by the pollster RAIT for BNS.

Fifty-two percent of respondents said they backed the idea and 26 percent said they disagreed with it. Another 22 percent of those polled had no opinion.

Skvernelis said in early January that Lithuania was the only EU member state that did not have any working contacts with Russia at the political level and called for creating channels for bilateral dialog.

"Russia is a complicated neighbour. Effective policies, however, require communication channels. Basically, there are none now. We say that these (channels) have to be created. Bilateral dialogue must take place," he said.

At the same time, the prime minister underlined that contacts with Russian politicians should not be treated as a review of relations, saying that Lithuania had to continue backing sanctions against Moscow and strongly supporting Ukraine.

Major Western countries maintain contacts with Russia at the highest presidential or prime ministerial level. Eastern European nations that are more critical of Moscow have contacts with Russia at the level ministers or vice-ministers.

The prime minister's critics say that changing Lithuania's position may be regarded as making concessions, showing weakness and admitting that Vilnius is in part to blame for the poor bilateral relations. They say Moscow may treat this as a signal that Vilnius may change its stance on strategic issues.

Skvernelis was also criticized for making his position public without first coordinating it with the president and the foreign minister.

The survey found that pensioners and people on average income were statistically more likely to support to the proposal to renew political contacts with Russia, while those with higher education and higher income were more likely to disapprove of it.

RAIT polled 1,053 people aged between 15 and 74 years on Jan. 13 to 29. The results of the survey have an error margin of 3.1 percent.

Source: BNS
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