Lithuania slams France's warship deal with Russia
Lithuania on Monday slammed a decision by NATO ally France to sell at least two warships to Russia, saying Paris was setting a risky precedent.
"I think this is a mistake," Lithuania's Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene told reporters.
"This is a precedent, when a NATO and EU member sells offensive weaponry to a country whose democracy is not at a level that would make us feel calm."
Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia -- who were ruled by Moscow until 1991 -- have repeatedly but unsuccessfully taken France to task since it began negotiating a warship sale with Russia in 2009.
Last Friday, Paris said it had struck a deal under which Moscow would buy two Mistral-class command and amphibious assault warships from a French-led consortium, with the possibility of two more.
"Of course, for countries around Russia, this is not pleasant news. It's definitely not the Christmas gift we would have liked to receive," Jukneviciene said.
The Baltic states were seized by the Soviet Union during World War II, were scarred by mass deportations of their people and finally won independence when the communist bloc crumbled in 1991.
The Kremlin only pulled out its troops in 1994 and the three states, with a combined population of only 6.8 million, still have rocky relations with giant Russia, notably since their NATO and EU entry in 2004.
© 2010 AFP