Lithuania declares state of emergency, asks Nato to invoke Article 4

Lithuania declares state of emergency, asks Nato to invoke Article 4
The Lithuanian president called Russia's actions "unprovoked military aggression" and signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in Lithuania.
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius February 24, 2022

Baltic leaders have been quick to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Lithuania even declaring a state of emergency in the country and asking Nato to invoke Article 4 and hold consultations over the security threat. 

The Baltic foreign ministers jointly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine and called for strict sanctions against the aggressor.

"We, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania condemn in the strongest possible way the open large-scale Russian aggression against the independent, peaceful, and democratic Ukraine," they said in a statement that was posted by Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis on Facebook.

They called on disengaging Russia from the SWIFT payment system and isolating it politically. Cutting Russia off from the SWIFT international interbank settlement system would make most financial transactions with the country impossible.

Landsbergis tweeted: "We in Lithuania know it very well that Ukraine is fighting not just for Ukraine, but for us in the region, Europe and everyone in the democratic world. It is our obligation not just to punish Russia for its actions but to help Ukraine with all and every means available.”

The foreign ministry has confirmed that Landsbergis has called off a visit to Kyiv that was planned for February 24.

Lithuania's Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said that West's diplomatic measures to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine "have failed". He said the Baltic States and Poland will propose to trigger Nato Article 4 on joint consultations of the alliesd.   "As a rule, such consultations lead to generating some additional forces in one region or the other, and may lead to the activation of the rapid reaction force," Anusauskas said.

Nato's Article 4 says "the parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened".

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that she spoke with her counterparts in Latvia and Estonia about asking Nato to evaluate the situation in Eastern Europe.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called Russia's actions "unprovoked military aggression" and signed a decree declaring a state of emergency in Lithuania.

"We are witnessing Russia's criminal actions against Ukraine. We cannot remain indifferent to this unprovoked military aggression, which threatens millions of innocent lives and undermines the foundations of international order," the president said in an address on the morning of February 24.

He said he was summoning the State Defence Council in order to "boost our combat readiness". Later on February 24, the Lithuanian State Defence Council asked Nato to invoke Article 4.

"I have already started active consultations on further actions with Nato allies and EU partners," the president said. "Our actions will have to include active support for Ukraine as well as heavy sanctions on Russia."

"Although there is no direct threat to stability in Lithuania, we have to assess the situation properly and act responsibly and with solidarity," Nauseda added.

Latvian officials joined a chorus of immediate international outrage February 24 as soon as reports of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia were received.

Latvian parliament Saeima speaker Inara Murniece (National Alliance) said on early February 24 that the day brings "a new era in Europe". "Ukraine has to be defended and helped," she said.

Latvian President Egils Levits said that Russia's actions were "totally unacceptable".

Estonian President Alar Karis said: "Evil is real…Glory to Ukraine".

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas wrote on social media: "I condemn in the gravest manner Russia's large-scale military attack against Ukraine. Aggression is a crime that demands the clearest international reaction and strong response. We are with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people at this dark hour. We #StandWithUkraine. Слава Україні!"

The Lithuanian fintech company Paysera has halted transfers to and from Russia, the company said in a press release. The decision was made in solidarity with Ukraine and to reduce risks from the Russian market.

The company will no longer process transactions in Russian roubles, close its Russian clients' accounts, and restrict money transfers to and from Russian and Belarusian banks, it said in a press release. It has also called on other financial institutions to follow suit. The restrictions on financial transactions will mostly affect Russian residents.

The Baltic foreign ministries have urged their citizens in Ukraine to leave the country immediately by land due to the “large-scale Russian military aggression”.