The Lithuanian fishing vessel "Jūrų Vilkas" ("Sea Wolf") was detained by Russian officials at a significant time - when Vilnius was hosting the meeting of NATO Military Committee, the alliance's supreme military organ. This cannot be a coincidence, says political scientist Nerijus Maliukevičius of the International Relations and Political Science Institute of Vilnius University.
Nerijus Maliukevičius
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

"Such demonstrations of power are truly unsettling," he tells LRT radio.

Commenting the incident that took place on Thursday, when Russian officials detained the Lithuanian vessel in international waters, Maliukevičius recalls another recent event in Estonia, where Russians arrested security police official Eston Kohver under dubious circumstances.

"[The Kohver incident] also posed many doubts about which side of the border the official was [during the arrest], how he was allegedly pursued and detained and suddenly turned up in a Moscow prison and a show trial. Such disagreeable associations come naturally," Maliukevičius says.

He notes that the abduction of the Estonian officer took place shortly after US President Barack Obama visited Tallinn. The arrest of the Lithuanian fishing vessel, according to the political observer, also unfolds against a charged context: on 19-20, Vilnius hosted NATO Military Committee meeting. "Such demonstrations of power are truly unsettling," Maliukevičius thinks.

He says that all Russia's moves take on a rather different meaning than they would have a decade or even a year ago. "We are living in the post-Crimea world - I mean [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's campaign in Ukraine - where Russia has instituted the right of might. Many international developments and incidents on the border must be seen through this lens which is different from what it was a year or a decade ago," Maliukevičius says.

According to him, Putin's policies in Ukraine defy international law and accepted conventions. "Many things that would otherwise be seen as mere incidences of rivalry between intelligence agencies - or maritime law breaches - now take on a completely different significance, one of political and strategic character," the political scientist says.

Last Thursday, armed Russian officials detained the fishing vessel "Jūrų Vilkas", owned by Lithuanian company "Arctic Fishing", and ordered it to sail to the port of Murmansk. When commanders of the vessel refused, they were removed from command, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Friday. The Russians accused the Lithuanian vessel of having crossed into Russia's territorial waters and engaged in illegal crab fishing. Meanwhile the Fishery Service claims that, according to monitoring data, the vessel was in international waters when it was detained.

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