Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 181

Russia’s Duma passed on September 26 a resolution recommending that President Boris Yeltsin postpone the signing of a border agreement with Lithuania, pending revisions to the text. Specifically, the Duma insists on language that would preserve "Russia’s right to the territory of Memel (Klaipeda)"; the document puts the territory’s German name first. The resolution also claims Russia’s "moral right" to that territory, citing a figure of 130,000 Soviet soldiers allegedly killed in seizing it from Germany in 1945. Pending a solution, the Duma calls for negotiations to set up a Russian zone in the port of Memel/Klaipeda. It further calls for a new Russian-Lithuanian agreement to guarantee the transit of Russian troops and military cargoes between Russia proper and the Kaliningrad exclave across Lithuania. As regards the timing of a border agreement, the Duma recommends postponing it "lest it be regarded by NATO as the removal of an obstacle to Lithuania’s accession to the alliance." The chairman of the Duma’s CIS affairs committee, Georgy Tikhonov of the red-brown Narodovlastie group of deputies, moved this resolution. It passed with 299 votes in favor and only three against. (Russian agencies, September 26-27)

The resolution’s use of the German name of Memel implies nonrecognition of the area’s transfer to Lithuania by the USSR government after World War II. Some Russian Communists and nationalists have been urging this for some time. Predictably, the resolution does not mention that Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad, like Memel, used to be a part of Germany’s province of East Prussia.

In Vilnius, Lithuanian president Algirdas Brazauskas told a news conference that he expects during his official visit to Russia next month to sign the border treaty with Yeltsin, notwithstanding the Duma’s resolution. Noting the fact that Russia has not yet signed a border treaty with any CIS or Baltic state, Brazauskas said that the signing of a Russian-Lithuanian border treaty "can show that the new democratic Russia does not follow the path of imperial ambitions which characterized the former USSR."

Parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis commented that the Duma’s action might constitute a "test of strength" with the executive power, but may also be welcomed by the Russian government as a pretext for not signing the border agreement, thereby complicating Lithuania’s relations with the European Union and NATO. The Kremlin’s intentions will soon become clear as Yeltsin must decide whether or not to receive Brazauskas in October and sign the border agreement, Landsbergis said. (BNS, September 27, 29)

Lazarenko Forms Opposition Party, Challenges Kuchma.