Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Baltic Crisis

Evacuate or Get a Weapon If War Breaks Out, Lithuanians Told
By Milda Seputyte Jan 6, 2015 8:52 AM PT

If there’s a war or other crisis, evacuate. If you can’t, find a weapon and stay inside. That’s the advice Lithuania’s Defense Ministry is giving citizens as concern over Russian expansionism sweeps across the Baltic state.

The country’s 3 million people shouldn’t risk their lives over property or succumb to curiosity, the ministry said in a 100-page survival manual that it will distribute in schools and libraries across the country. When evacuating, people should secure food and water, stay away from armed troops, travel only in the daytime and use a white blanket to identify themselves as civilians.

“Keep a cool head,” the tome, based on advice from experiences in Ukraine’s separatist conflict, advises. “Don’t panic, and don’t lose common sense. Shots outside the window aren’t the end of the world.”

Lithuania is issuing the manual after a spike in Russian military activity across the Baltic Sea from St. Petersburg to the Russian exclave in Kaliningrad. With pro-Russian separatists battling troops in fellow former Soviet republic Ukraine, Lithuania has joined Estonia and Latvia in calling for more security guarantees from their allies in NATO, which they joined in 2004.

“There’s been a lot pressure to put something together quickly,” Defense Ministry spokeswoman Viktorija Cieminyte said by phone. “We kept getting a lot of phone inquiries, media requests on what to do in case of emergency, about where and how to find hideouts. We had to respond to public demand.”

Lithuania put some of its military units, including rapid response forces, on high alert for five days last month after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Baltic Air Policing mission intercepted 80 Russian aircraft in one week, compared with 47 in all of 2013. The planes were flying close to the borders of the Baltic states with their transponders off.

Vladimir Putin is pushing Russia to be “aggressive, to occupy other regions and to drastically reorganize international security in the world, and especially in Europe,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Nov. 20. NATO pledged in September to bolster the defenses of front-line states in eastern Europe in response to what it said was Russian involvement in Ukraine. Putin has said he “respects” the separatists’ aspirations in Ukraine, although he denies that his government is involved in the conflict.

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