Lithuania seeks joint EU-NATO response to Russian proposal to change Baltic Sea borders

Moscow’s push to change sea borders sparks concern in Baltic region

Leila Nezirevic  | 24.05.2024 - Update : 25.05.2024
Lithuania seeks joint EU-NATO response to Russian proposal to change Baltic Sea borders


Lithuania has called for a unified response from the European Union and NATO after Russia published a proposal to redraw its maritime borders with Lithuania and Finland, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said Thursday.

“We continue to work with our neighbors and partners at both the EU and NATO levels to ensure a unified response to the situation,” Simonyte told reporters in the capital Vilnius, according to national broadcaster LRT.

“I believe (Russia’s) aim is to create uncertainty about what is being done,” she added.

Simonyte’s comments come after Russia’s Defense Ministry drafted a plan to move the sea borders around Russian islands in the Gulf of Finland and around the exclave of Kaliningrad.

The issue was first highlighted Tuesday, when Russia's TASS news agency and other local media reported on the ministry’s proposal to redraw old borders dating back to the Soviet era in January 1985.

The draft proposal was deleted from the government’s website late Wednesday, just 24 hours after it was published.

However, the move was still labelled by regional leaders as an “obvious escalation” from the Kremlin despite a military-diplomatic source explaining to Russian news agencies that Moscow had no intention of revising the borders in the Baltic Sea.

Simonyte said the Kremlin’s plans remain unclear.

“I think the Russian authorities deliberately want this to be impossible to clarify; they want it to be vague, to cause anxiety and fear,” she said.

According to the draft document, the Kremlin intends to declare part of the Baltic Sea east of the Gulf of Finland as well as near the towns of Baltiysk and Zelenogradsk in the Kaliningrad region as its internal maritime waters, the Russian newspaper The Moscow Times reported.

On the border with Lithuania, the Curonian Spit area, Cape Taran, the area south of Cape Taran and the Baltic Spit would be revised, it was said in the document drafted by the Russian ministry.

For Finland, this would mean that the border near the Russian islands of Hogland, Sommaro, Rödskär, Tyterskär and Vigrund would be redrawn. However, the exact location of the demarcation is not specified, and no map was attached to the document, according to the newspaper.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the coordinates of the current border were approved in 1985 based on small-scale nautical charts and that the border had to be changed because it no longer corresponds to “the modern geographical situation,” The Moscow Times added.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there was “nothing political” in the proposal.

“You can see how tensions are escalating. The level of confrontation, particularly in the Baltic region, demands the necessary steps from our relevant agencies to ensure our security,” he added.

Following the report, the Baltic and Finnish leaders urged against unnecessary confusion and said they were cooperating and gathering information.

On Wednesday, Lithuania summoned a Russian representative to explain the plans to redraw the maritime borders.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the proposal “another Russian hybrid operation” which he said is trying to “spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about their intentions in the Baltic Sea.”

“This is an obvious escalation against NATO and the EU and must be met with an appropriately firm response,” said Landsbergis.

Finland's defense and foreign committees held emergency meetings Wednesday and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said the political leadership was "monitoring the situation closely.”

"Right now, I don't see any reason for greater concern," he said.

Criticizing Vilnius’s strong rhetoric, Orpo suggested he was in contact with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts.

“In Finland, we always study the facts in detail first and then draw conclusions,” Orpo was quoted as saying by the Finnish publication Ilta-Sanomat.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen suggested that there was no indication that the information about the redrawing of the maritime borders was a Russian provocation and that instead it was likely a “routine act.”

“Russia would be violating a UN convention. Russia would have the whole world against it,” Valtonen told reporters.

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