On 27th March this year, a Lithuanian court in Vilnius issued its ruling in the so called ‘13th January case’, in which 67 Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens, including former high-level officials of the Soviet Union, were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their involvement in the Soviet aggression on the 13th January 1991. When Lithuania declared independence on 11th March 1990, the Soviet Union used its military against peaceful independence movement demonstrators. The result was a massacre with 14 deaths and over 800 injured.
The facts in this case are imminent and undisputable. And if you cannot attack the facts – attack the judges. So this is exactly what Putin is doing right now. He is exploiting membership in Interpol to seek bogus extradition charges and information on the judges to use it against them. That is why the European Parliament this week voted on a resolution to condemn Russia’s behavior and to support our judges and our judicial system; and I’m happy we are showing from the beginning – with not only this resolution, but also one of the first one’s this term on disinformation – we are aware of and condemn foreign interferences.
On a related note, as a Czech citizen and European politician I was equally not shocked to learn this week from my national intelligence services that Russian and Chinese agents are targeting my country with varying disinformation and secret influence campaigns. The yearly intelligence report for the previous year showed increasingly hostile and pervasive attempts by mainly Russia and China to bring us out of the European Union and NATO by discrediting our public sphere, academia and corrupting our political class. In short, to divide and rule us.
My generation had the historical fortune to grow up in a time of unprecedented peace in Europe. Maybe that is why we do not seem to acknowledge the scope of the danger of these increasing attacks on our freedoms and security. We need to protect our political system. Fund counter measures, educate and inform people and protect, strengthen and adapt to the new challenges the very institutions that gave me and over 500 million Europeans a safe and prosperous life – so that they continue to do so.