Russia investigates legitimacy of Baltic States’ independence

The Russian chief prosecutor's office examined whether the Soviet Union acted legally when it recognised the Baltic states' independence in 1991. A source related to the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, accepted an enquiry previously made by two members of the Russian Duma (parliament) - Anton Romanov, and Yevgeny Fyodorov; both members of  President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.  In their letter, Fyodorov and Romanov, said the 1991 decision to recognise Baltic independence had been taken "by an unconstitutional body". The State Soviet was an interim assembly formed in September 1991, and comprised the Soviet president and the leaders of 10 of the country's republics. But the Soviet Constitution allowed no provisions for the creation of such a body. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the move had not come from the Kremlin "We were not familiar with this initiative in the Kremlin, and I am struggling to understand the essence of it," he told reporters. Even though, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office decided these claims have no legal grounds, it has raised strong reactions among Baltic states and their allies.


On Tuesday June 30, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskate and Foreign Minister, Linas Linkevicius responded angrily to the Prosecutor General Office’s comments. “Our independence was gained through the blood and sacrifice of the Lithuanian people,” Grybauskaite responded on her Twitter account. “No-one has the right to threaten it, and only we will decide our fate.”  Reacting to the Russian prosecutor's move, Lithuania's foreign minister called it "a provocation to say the least" and "legally, morally and politically absurd". Estonia's Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus said it “baffles the mind why the Russian Prosecutor General's Office wastes its time and resources on such a legally absurd question The council played no part in the legality of Estonian independence from Estonia's own point of view, as the country's independence was restored, not created in 1991.” A spokesperson for Latvia's Foreign Ministry also called the alleged plans absurd. The European Union's top envoy to Russia and former Lithuanian foreign minister, Vygaudas Usackas, denounced the reported investigation plans as “ridiculous”. The Baltic nations' independence is “confirmed by facts on the ground, since we are members of the United Nations, EU and NATO,” Usackas stated, adding that the investigation “leads nowhere.” The first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union after calling the investigation a ‘provocation’ questioned the legitimacy of the Federation of Russia itself. He sarcastically suggested for Lithuanian MPs to request an investigation claiming that the state of Russia is illegal as the Bolsheviks murdered their head of the country Tsar Nikolai II and asking whether that can be called a legal procedure?

The answer of Russian Prosecutor General’s Office

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has conceded that its inquiry into the legality of the three Baltic nations' independence from the Soviet Union has “no legal prospects” after a flurry of criticism of the investigation.

Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the Russian prosecution, said they are required to consider all requests, regardless of content. “In this case, it is clear the matter has no legal prospects,” she said. However, last week Russia's chief prosecutor declared the transfer of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 “illegal.” The Baltics saw it as a threat to their own independence, even though, the purpose of this action is said to be a justification of annexation of Crimea at the same time drawing a parallel saying both decisions were “illegal” but should not now be re-opened. Chief of Staff of Russia’s Presidential Administration of Russia Sergei Ivanov, said  “it is a psychological disorder to claim Russia will invade the Baltic States, “I find it funny to hear how Russia is being accused of military aggressiveness.”

However, the words of Russian authorities are questionable for many in the Baltic states and elsewhere, as there currently are massive Russian military exercises, including heightened Russian air force activity in the Baltic. Consequently, NATO has stepped up its presence in the Baltic states. In addition, the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced on a two-day visit to Estonia, that the US will “pre-position” tanks and a heavy artillery battalion in the Baltic States and three other European countries. The increased tensions between Russia and Baltics region is a consequence of the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

BBC, Baltic Times 1  2Estonian Public Broadcasting, The Moscow Times 1

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