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Comparison of Catalonian, Baltic independence ideas wrong - Lithuanian Foreign Minister

VILNIUS – Comparing the Catalonian aspirations to break free from Spain with the Baltic states' movement to gain independence from the Soviet Union would be incorrect, says Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.

Speaking in an interview ahead of the independence referendum in the Spanish region, which Madrid views as illegal, Linkevicius emphasized that Lithuania had been occupied and suffered repressions, which is beyond comparison with Catalonia, which is autonomous part of a democratic country.

"A comparison would probably be incorrect, speaking about the Soviet occupation and the developments we know of, the deportations to Siberia (…). This is an entirely different context," the minister told BNS on Thursday.

He emphasized Lithuania was keeping a close eye on the situation in Spain and hoping for a constructive solution.

"Spain is a country of the European Union, it is a democracy, it follows the rule of law and we trust the system, at the same time hoping that the dialogue with those holding different views will be held constructively and without unnecessary measures," said Linkevicius.

The media has been comparing t he Catalonian region to the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

On the National Day of Catalonia in 2013 and 2014 , the local residents formed human chains, titling the demonstration as the Catalonian Way. The campaign was inspired by the 1989 protest by the Baltic populations when people held hands to form a 650-km human chain from the Gedimino Tower in Vilnius to the Hermann Tower in Tallinn.

Kestutis Girnius, associate professor at the Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute, said the Lithuanian situation was similar to that of Catalonia in some aspects.

"Yes, Spain is a democracy, while the Soviet Union was an authoritarian repressive state, however, at the time of Lithuania's efforts to break free, the hand of Moscow was already considerably lighter. (…) The leaders of the Sajudis movement who strove to independence were not arrested, there were no attempts to cancel the elections to the Supreme Council, regardless of knowing that the Sajudis would win," Girnius said in a comment to delfi.lt news portal earlier this week.

"As a small nation, we should feel sympathy to the Catalonian aspirations with at least a silent call to Madrid to review its policies and seek ways of satisfying the Catalonian aspiration of having a stronger say in its destiny. After once criticizing the West for its cowardliness, we are now following suit. There is no courage or principles," he wrote.

Catalonian officials plan on holding the independence referendum on Sunday.

A week ago, Spanish police confiscated about 10 million ballots, which could have been used during the vote. The police arrested 13 Catalonian governmental officials, thus triggering protests by tens of thousands of people in the regional capital Barcelona. They were later released.

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