The Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, a civilian paramilitary force, is preparing for the worst as Putin threatens the security of the Baltic states in his attempts to create a new soviet union under his leadership.
Formed in 1914 but disbanded by the soviets in 1940 they have been re-formed since independence and seen their numbers grow, tripling since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to about 10,000 members including former servicemen. (See history here).
Many Lithuanians see the Ukrainian war (not to mention the annexation of Crimea) as just the start of Russia’s plan to recapture its near neighbours including the Baltic states. They are not alone. Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Moldova, all former Warsaw Pact states, also feel vulnerable at the creation of “Novo Russia”.
Lithuania has reintroduced conscription and produced a booklet on what to do in the case of an invasion. It’s also warned NATO about the build-up of nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, the strip of land between Poland and Lithuania which Russia took from Germany.
Russia claims it has to do that to counter the threat from the NATO build-up in the region – battalions of 1,000 men, one each to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (where the British contingent is based).
Kaliningrad also gives Russia access to the Baltic Sea where it is said to have committed “military hooliganism” by harassing merchant shipping.
Lithuania is currently the only NATO country to provide weapons to Ukraine , because “The Ukrainians are basically fighting the Russian Army” and thinks NATO should do more.
As for the riflemen, although they will be heavily outnumbered, they are preparing for guerrilla warfare in the forests of Lithuania. They have just been allowed to keep their semi-automatic weapons and ammunition at home to be better prepared.
Anyone visiting the Museum of Genocide in the old KGB HQ in Vilnius will see memorabilia from the past including information about the partisans – who fought a bloody campaign. Lets hope it doesn’t come to that again.