Lithuania in the News
31st August 2014
Lithuania Celebrates 25th Anniversary of the Baltic Way
Lithuanian flag 1 km long. Photo courtesy
Twenty five years have now passed since August 23, 1989, when over 2 million people in the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) joined hands to create the Baltic Way - a human chain 650 km long from Vilnius to Tallinn. They were protesting the infamous Molotov - Ribbentrop pact, signed 50 years earlier on August 23, 1939 by the foreign ministers of Germany and the Soviet Union, when in secret protocols the Soviet Union and Germany divided the Baltic States and Poland among themselves just prior to World War II. This year is thus 75 years since that day of infamy.
August 23 is now known as the Black Ribbon and more formally as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. It has been observed by the European Union annually since 2009. The Black Ribbon Day is also formally recognised by the USA and Canada. The 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way (Baltijos Kelias in Lithuanian) this year was a major celebration in Lithuania and the other Baltic States. As Ukraine's Independence Day occurred on the very next day on August 24, Lithuanians took the opportunity to express
Gediminas Tower draped in flags. Photo courtesy
solidarity with Ukraine. Lithuania has always been a strong supporter of Ukraine's move towards European integration, especially since the EU Eastern Partnership Summit Vilnius in November last year. "That is why we have a fourth flag in our hands today. Today is the Day of the Ukrainian Flag. Therefore, today's celebrations in the Baltic countries mingle with the Ukrainian flag," declared President Dalia Grybauskaitė.
Among the highlights of the celebrations this year was the draping of the Gediminas Tower in the centre of Vilnius with the three Baltic flags. Another impressive sight was the carrying aloft of a 1 km long Lithuanian flag through the centre of Vilnius to the Cathedral Square. It took 160 volunteers three days to sew the flag together. Among the many celebratory events was a concert in Vilnius Cathedral Square stretching overnight into the next morning, during which Ukrainian singer Ruslana performed. Ruslana had been the winner of the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest.
Just prior to the day of anniversary, nine commemorative stands were unveiled in Lithuania along the Baltic Way route at various drivers' rest areas. In all there are now 23 such commemorative stands, including the 10 in Latvia and 4 in Estonia. A note of sadness during the celebrations was the recent news that Mykola Zelenec, Lithuania's Honorary Consul in Ukraine for the Luhansk region, had been murdered by terrorists. Condolences to his family were extended by President Dalia Grybauskaitė, US State Department, ES High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, ES Foreign Ministers and other high ranking officials. In view of the recent escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, Lithuania convened a meeting of the UN Security Council last Thursday, August 28.

Further information:
www.lrytas 23 & 30/08/14, 23-25/08/14