Īvāns and Bildt: We must learn lessons of Baltic Way

Politicians, academics, journalists and - more importantly - former participants gathered at the University of Latvia Thursday for a conference dedicated to the historic events of the Baltic Way.

Opening  the two-day event, Dainis Īvāns - to many people the figurehead of Latvia's drive towards renewed independence as head of the Latvian Popular Front - drew parallels between the events that led to freedom in the Baltic states and current events in Ukraine.

"In summer of 1989 there were numerous false reports in the western press that were obviously placed there by the Kremlin and KGB which portrayed events in a negative light. Russian journalists called popular front members fascists and US agents that would kill people for speaking Russian – it's easy to forget that Kremlin propaganda channels have nothing to do with what we call journalism in the west," Īvāns said.

"Journalists are currently publishing lies about Ukraine, too. Gorbachev looked the world in the eye and lied, saying there had been no agreement between the Nazis and the Communists, so its not surprising we can see someone in similar high office doing something similar right now."

Don't let anyone say that western sanctions don't have an effect in the Kremlin"

"After August 23 Gorbachev changed his attitude, saying "We need you and you need us... Don't let anyone say that western sanctions don't have an effect in the Kremlin," Īvāns told his audience in a powerful speech.

"We had to struggle, and unfortunately not without victims. Today Ukrainians are fighting courageously – with their lives, they are stopping the evil forces returning.

"We have to be resolute, stand on the Baltic Way and reach out our hand to anyone who wants to come back to a civilised western world," Īvāns concluded to warm applause.

His view received backing by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in a video message to the conference.

Bildt condemned the recent "invasion and occupation" of Crimea and "attempts to set up what they call people's republics" in other parts of Ukraine.

"It's important to learn some of the lessons of the Baltic Way: stand by principle, stand by truth... that will be decisive now as well as then," Bildt said.

On August 23, 1989, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the notorious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, hundreds of thousands of people joined hands in a human chain from Tallinn to Vilnius via Riga to call for the renewed independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - a goal that was achieved within two years.

The conference, which continues throughout Thursday and Friday can be viewed live here.

 

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