Durbin Meets with Former Lithuanian President Landsbergis

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Vytautas Landsbergis, the first president of Lithuania and current member of the European Parliament. Landsbergis was joined by a number of senior Lithuanian officials.


Today’s meeting follows the EU’s Monday announcement that revealed toughened sanctions against Lithuania’s neighbor county, Belarus. The new sanctions extended asset freezes and travel restrictions to thirteen additional Belarusian officials.


The sanctions on Belarus are in response to a violent crackdown surrounding presidential elections in 2010. The Belarusian government, led by Alexander Lukashenko, recently sentenced opposition presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov to a five year prison term and other candidates and activists remain in jail. Both the White House and the U.S. State Department have strongly condemned the election process and the subsequent crackdown on opposition leaders.


"Not only has any semblance of democracy been shattered by the arrest of anyone running or protesting against Lukashenko, but his government has brazenly mistreated those in detention, harassed their families, and handed out arbitrary and outrageous jail sentences," Durbin said.  "Such barbaric and unpredictable behavior rightfully causes concern in neighboring countries. These actions have no place in Europe or anywhere else in the world."


In March, Belarus announced it would build a nuclear power plant near the Lithuanian border raising a number of serious safety and security concerns. Last week, Durbin discussed these issues with the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires ad interim in Belarus Mike Scanlan. The Lithuanian government has sought international support to reverse the Belarusian plan, citing the paralyzing effects that an accident would have on Lithuania.


Durbin last visited Lithuania in January, where he spoke to Lithuanian officials and addressed the Lithuanian Parliament on the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. Durbin, the highest ranking Lithuanian-American in the U.S. government, has maintained a strong tie to his mother’s native country and visited numerous times throughout his life.