Viewing cable 09VILNIUS30
Title: TEAR GAS USED, BUT PROTESTS OVER ECONOMY STOP

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS302009-01-16 14:31:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO9013
PP RUEHSK
DE RUEHVL #0030 0161431
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161431Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3208
INFO RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK PRIORITY
RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA PRIORITY 3544
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 7166
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW PRIORITY 3750
UNCLAS VILNIUS 000030 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON PGOV LH
SUBJECT: TEAR GAS USED, BUT PROTESTS OVER ECONOMY STOP 
SHORT OF RIOTS 
 
REF: RIGA 29 
 
¶1. SUMMARY: Protesters broke windows at the Lithuanian 
parliament building and police used tear gas to halt violent 
protesters, but anti-government demonstrations in Vilnius and 
other cities in Lithuania on January 16 were largely 
non-violent and did not deteriorate into the rioting that 
erupted in neighboring Latvia on January 13. Media reported a 
few injuries to police and protesters.  End summary. 
 
¶2. Trade unions had called the demonstration to oppose 
austerity measures enacted by the coalition government of 
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, which has been in office for 
only a month.  The GOL has raised taxes, cut salaries for 
some government workers and taken other belt-tightening 
measures to minimize the effect of the world financial crisis 
and to address budgetary problems it inherited from the 
previous government.  In addition to the main demonstration, 
which was to start at the Seimas (parliament) building and 
involve a march down the main street of Vilnius, organizers 
had urged people in other Lithuanian cities to hold their own 
protest actions. 
 
¶3. Media estimated that 7,000 protesters gathered outside the 
Seimas building where, after a peaceful start, protesters 
threw snowballs and eggs at the building and at MP Arturas 
Zuokas, a popular former Vilnius mayor who leads one of the 
four parties in the governing coalition.  Zuokas, who had 
emerged from the Seimas building to talk with protesters, was 
excoriated but not hurt. Thrown snowballs or other items 
broke several windows.  When protesters tried to enter the 
Seimas building, some of the 300 police officers present 
pushed them back.  Police employed tear gas after some 
protesters threw smoke bombs.  One Seimas member also 
reported a new hole in one window of the Seimas building, 
which he claimed could only have been caused by a bullet. 
(Windows with bullet holes from Lithuania's January 1991 
standoff with Soviet troops have been carefully preserved at 
the Seimas building.) 
 
¶4. We observed that the demonstrators at the Seimas appeared 
to fall into two categories:  many were older people who were 
angrily but peacefully denouncing the government and its 
actions.  On the fringes were young men who, to our eyes, 
came ready to fight.  They began throwing snowballs and eggs, 
and we saw the first smoke or gas canisters thrown from the 
area where they were before police responded in kind.  The 
march down Gedimino Prospect, the main street of Vilnius, was 
peaceful and the violence at the Seimas building occurred 
after many of the older protesters had left for the march. 
 
¶5. Although police in riot gear were waiting for the 
demonstrators at the Seimas, the police presence elsewhere in 
the area was light until the violence ensued, at which point 
riot police also appeared at nearby intersections. 
 
¶6. Media reports say that in the northern city of Siauliai, 
about 30 young men with shaved heads, their faces hidden by 
scarves and collars, joined a protest of several thousand 
people at the city government building and urged protesters 
to throw stones and bricks through the windows.  Protesters 
did throw snowballs, and police repelled a group of 
demonstrators who tried to enter the building.  There were no 
immediate media reports of problems in other cities. 
 
¶7. At least several people were arrested in Vilnius, in 
connection with the violence, but no firm figures are 
available.  As Vilnius moves into the evening rush hour, 
things appear to have quieted down, although there is 
speculation that the troublemakers of today's protest may 
return to the Seimas building after dark.  The police, who 
appear to have been well-prepared today, are bringing in 
additional forces from outside of Vilnius as a precaution. 
The Cabinet is meeting in emergency session to discuss the 
day's events. The prosecutor's office announced they were 
opening an investigation into whether a betting company had 
incited people to riot.  The company had taken bets on 
whether today's protest would turn violent. 
CLOUD