Viewing cable 09VILNIUS676

09VILNIUS6762009-12-11 10:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius

DE RUEHVL #0676/01 3451055
P 111055Z DEC 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000676 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/11/2019 
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, a.i., Damian R. Leader 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
¶1.  (U)  SUMMARY:  Former Lithuanian Prime Minister Kazimira 
Prunskiene, whose popularity with voters has tumbled in 
recent years, has founded a new political party that has 
drawn attention because of its open ties with Russian 
politicians.  The meeting to establish the party was attended 
by the Russian ambassador to Lithuania, the chairman of the 
Russian Duma's International Affairs Committee and other 
officials from Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.  The new party 
calls for closer economic and political ties with Russia and 
with other neighboring countries, both east and west.  End 
¶2.  (U)  Prunskiene, who was Lithuania's first 
post-independence prime minister nearly 20 years ago and 
agriculture minister in the Social Democrat-led government 
that left office just over one year ago, has seen her 
political success wither recently.  Although she finished a 
close second in the 2004 presidential election and her 
Peasants Party won 10 seats in the Seimas (parliament) later 
that year, the party failed to cross the 5 percent threshold 
in October 2008 parliamentary elections, and she herself lost 
in a single-mandate district.  She won less than 4 percent of 
the votes in the 2009 presidential election; during the 
campaign some media outlets referred to her as "the Kremlin's 
candidate."  She left the Peasants Party this July and almost 
immediately announced her plans to form a new party. 
¶3.  (U)  On December 5, all 407 delegates at a congress voted 
to formally establish that party, the Lithuanian People's 
Union (LPU), and selected Prunskiene as its leader.  Media 
reported that large delegations of Russian, Kazakhstani and 
Belarusian politicians and officials also attended the 
congress.  Among them were Russia's ambassador to Lithuania 
and Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the International 
Affairs Committee of the Duma of the Russian Federation (RF). 
 At the congress, Kosachev read a message of congratulations 
from the RF Duma Speaker, Boris Gryzlov, who also is board 
chairman of the ruling United Russia political party. 
¶4.  (U)  Kosachev had refused an invitation for a formal 
meeting with Audronius Azubalis, chairman of the Seimas 
foreign-affairs committee, while he was in Lithuania.  At the 
party congress, Kosachev criticized most other Lithuanian 
political forces:  "Unfortunately, many political parties of 
Lithuania ground their positions towards Russia on antagonism 
and demonizations, and there is nothing we can discuss with 
these parties.  I am very happy that Prunskiene's speech 
stated a constructive stance on Russia, and here we will 
definitely be allies and partners."  He said, "I cannot find 
any well-grounded explanations behind the almost anti-Russian 
campaigns declared by Lithuania's political elites, and I 
believe they do not answer the spirit of the age or 
Lithuania's interests."  He predicted that the LPU and his 
party, United Russia, would "work together to normalize the 
relations between Russia and Lithuania." 
¶5.  (U)  Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas told 
journalists he was "unpleasantly surprised" by Kosachev's 
statement, and said that the participation of an official of 
Kosachev's rank in the constituent assembly of a new 
political party was indicative of Russian efforts to 
influence Lithuanian domestic politics.  Usackas said 
Kosachev's statement and his refusal to meet with his 
Lithuanian counterpart were "not compatible with the 
constructive cooperation dialogue that we seek in our 
relations with Russia." 
¶6.  (U)  Lithuanian political analyst Tomas Janeliunas said 
United Russia's overtures to a Lithuanian party were a new 
tactic.  "The bulk of Lithuania's society sees Russia as an 
unfriendly country," he said.  "Either the public appearance 
of guests from Russia is intended for a small portion of 
Lithuanian voters who may like the demonstration of 
friendship with Russia's ruling forces, or else this is a 
poor political strategy adopted by Prunskiene."  Analysts 
said the new party would likely find some support among 
disenchanted pensioners, the jobless and low-skilled workers 
who are upset about recent cuts to social benefits and long 
for the return of Soviet-style state paternalism. 
¶7.  (U)  Prunskiene said the LPU plans to put together a 
candidate list for 2011 local-government elections.  The next 
Seimas elections are to be held in 2012, and the next 
presidential poll in 2014.  In her speech to the congress, 
Prunskiene said she did not worry about the LPU being tagged 
as pro-Russian, because that was where Lithuania should look 
for strategic relations and to seek benefits.  "We have to 
stop demonstrating hostility towards important economic 
partners, Russia and Belarus, and make better use of various 
fields of cooperation," she said. 
¶8.  (C)  Prunskiene, 66, was a member of the Soviet Communist 
Party from 1980-90.  In 1989, she won election to the USSR 
Supreme Soviet in the first semi-independent elections in the 
Soviet Union.  She served one year in the Supreme Soviet and 
became a founding member of the Sajudis independence 
movement.  In 1989 she was deputy prime minister of 
Lithuania, and in 1990 she led the first post-Communist 
Cabinet in Lithuania.  She resigned in January 1991 after 
liberalization of prices sparked protests.  Prunskiene has 
never been seen as very pro-American, and has said that 
Lithuania should pursue close ties with Europe over close 
ties with the United States. 
¶9.  (U)  Lithuania's Lustration Commission in September found 
that Prunskiene had secretly collaborated with the Soviet KGB 
by performing intelligence and counterintelligence tasks. 
That ruling was based on a 1992 court decision.  But a 
different court ruled in 2003 that it saw insufficient 
evidence to prove Prunskiene's collaboration with the KGB. 
Prunskiene has appealed the Lustration Commission finding. 
¶10.  (C)  COMMENT:  The Lithuanian People's Party is the 
latest in a long list of top-down Lithuanian parties created 
as personal vehicles by known politicians and other 
personalities.  While some of these parties have enjoyed 
short-term success, none has been able to break into the 
ranks of the biggest and most successful parties -- which are 
those that are driven more by political ideology rather than 
the ambitions of their founders.  Prunskiene's new party has 
drawn attention for two reasons: because of her relative 
celebrity, and because of its unusual ties with Russia.  At a 
time when many Lithuanians, including politicians and 
military leaders, are increasingly worried about what they 
see as Russian intimidation and hostility, a party with open 
ties to Russia's ruling forces is unlikely to find many 
allies in Lithuanian politics or mainstream public support.