Viewing cable 09VILNIUS277
Title: LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT VOTES TO PROTECT HISTORIC

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS2772009-05-18 13:37:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXYZ0006
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVL #0277 1381337
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 181337Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3508
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000277 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2019 
TAGS: PGOV SCUL LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT VOTES TO PROTECT HISTORIC 
JEWISH CEMETERY 
 
REF: VILNIUS 258 AND PREVIOUS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (U) Summary:  The GOL on May 18 voted to approve 
boundaries of the historic Snipiskes cemetery in Vilnius, 
delineating areas that will be permanently protected from 
development and moving closer to ending a dispute that has 
dragged on for years and damaged Lithuania's international 
reputation.  We are told the government action has the 
approval of the developer who owns most of the cemetery, but 
Jewish groups pushing for protection of the cemetery have yet 
to weigh in.  End summary. 
 
¶2. (C) The Cabinet of Ministers on May 18 accepted a map 
drafted by the Department of Cultural Heritage that covers 
most of the site of the former Snipiskes cemetery, which was 
the main Jewish burial area in Vilnius for centuries.  No 
development will be allowed in that area.  According to MFA 
Counselor Saulius Jaskelevicius, the plan also creates 
adjacent buffer zones in which development would be curtailed 
in the event that "bodies in anatomical positions" (i.e., 
graves) are found.  Should bone fragments or similar remains 
be uncovered, digging would stop long enough for these 
remains to be removed respectfully and reburied elsewhere. 
Arrangements would be made for rabbinical supervision of 
digging in the buffer zones.  The fully protected area does 
not include several buildings already built on land believed 
to be part of the cemetery, including a sports arena built by 
Soviet authorities in 1971 and two residential/commercial 
buildings erected in the last five years. 
 
¶3. (C) UBIG, a company owned by one of Lithuania's wealthiest 
businessmen, owns much of the cemetery land and a larger plot 
adjacent to the cemetery, and has plans to redevelop and add 
to the sports arena to create a conference center.  The 
businessman, Vladimir Romanov, said this month (reftel) that 
he was willing to give up part of his land to allow for 
preservation of the cemetery.  Jaskelevicius told us on May 
15 that Romanov had agreed to the plan that was then approved 
by the GOL on May 18. 
 
¶4. (C) The other major player in the Snipiskes dispute is the 
Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemteries in Europe. 
Representatives of the London-based group are to arrive in 
Vilnius May 20 for meetings with GOL officials and, possibly, 
UBIG representatives.  Their approval of the plan is not 
certain; rabbis for the group have said repeatedly that 
compromise is not possible because all remains buried in the 
cemetery must be protected from desecration.  But one of 
their team told us May 18 that there is "a lot of flexibility 
on the side of the Committee."  However, he said, there also 
needs to be "some flexibility, still a bit, from the other 
side." 
 
¶5. (U) The boundaries accepted by the GOL cover nearly all of 
the land shown on old maps as being part of the cemetery, 
except for the land now covered by buildings and a small 
strip that has long since been dug up for a road and sidewalk 
along one side of the site.  The buffer zones do include the 
land on which the buildings sit, and extend well to the north 
and east of the mapped cemetery borders.  (Note:  map 
e-mailed to EUR/NB and EUR/OHI.) 
 
¶6. (C) Comment:  Almost as soon as he took office in December 
2008, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius promised to resolve the 
Snipiskes cemetery issue.  This step is a large one in the 
right direction. 
CLOUD