Lithuania slams OSCE over Crimea exhibition 'ban'

19th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Lithuania on Thursday accused the OSCE of banning an exhibition marking the first anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, while officials in charge said it was just postponed.

Lithuania's foreign ministry said Serbia, the current chair of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and its Secretary General Lamberto Zannier of Italy "did not permit" the photo exhibition at the organisation's Vienna headquarters.

"This is the first time in the history of the OSCE when an exhibition intended to draw attention to severe human rights violations is prohibited," foreign ministry spokesman Kestutis Vaskelevicius told AFP.

The Serbian foreign ministry spokeswoman who is in charge of questions regarding the country's OSCE presidency however said the exhibition had just been postponed.

"All exhibitions at the OSCE headquarters have been postponed until further notice because of consultations with OSCE countries after which more details will be available," spokeswoman Marina Markovic told AFP.

The Lithuanian ministry said the photos, taken by Lithuania's former ambassador to Ukraine, showed so-called "little green men," or Russian soldiers without insignia who had swarmed key sites across Crimea last March to slice it away from Ukraine.

In a separate statement, Lithuania's OSCE envoy said Thursday that the "whole organisation cannot be taken hostage by one delegation's -- Russia's -- wishes."

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty claiming Crimea as Russian territory after more than 97 percent of Crimeans voted in favour of joining Russia in a disputed referendum on March 16, 2014.

The OSCE is playing an important role in attempts to end hostilities in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops, monitoring the truce and weapons withdrawal.

A vocal supporter of Ukraine, Baltic EU state Lithuania is among the most hawkish NATO and EU members on Russia, and has repeatedly called for tougher sanctions on Moscow.

© 2015 AFP

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