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15 Sep, 2023 15:39

EU state revokes figure skater’s citizenship over Russia show

Vilnius’ decision comes a year after Margarita Drobiazko participated at an event in Sochi
EU state revokes figure skater’s citizenship over Russia show

Lithuania has revoked the citizenship of Russian-born figure skater Margarita Drobiazko. The move came shortly after President Gitanas Nauseda announced his intention to do so based on a recommendation by the country’s Citizenship Commission.

The Lithuanian head of state told the Baltic News Service (BNS) on Thursday that “the question [to revoke her passport] is completely clear to me.” 

A representative for Nauseda later confirmed to the same media outlet that he had signed a decree to strip Drobiazko of her citizenship.   

“I think that people who want to spread the light of culture and goodness in the skin of an aggressor can continue to do this without Lithuanian citizenship,” Nauseda added.

The remarks appear to be a reference to an open letter issued by Drobiazko to “fellow Lithuanians” this week, in which she addressed speculation surrounding her status as a citizen. “As far as I understand, I am charged with not publicly expressing my political opinion,” the retired Moscow-born athlete wrote.

Along with her husband, Povilas Vanagas, Drobiazko is considered to be one of the most decorated figure skaters in Lithuania’s history. Both formally retired from the sport in 2006, and now work and reside in Russia.

Drobiazko also said that she does not promote Russia’s foreign policy aims, but only spreads “the light of culture and goodness.” 

On Wednesday, Lithuania’s Citizenship Commission recommended that Drobiazko, 51, be deprived of citizenship “due to her publicly expressed support for the Russian Federation, which is interpreted as a hostile state towards Lithuania, the states of the European Union and their allies.” 

In August 2022, Drobiazko and the Lithuanian-born Vanagas participated in an ice-dancing event in Sochi which was organized by Tatyana Navka, the wife of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Following her appearance in Sochi, Nauseda claimed the decision to award Drobiazko Lithuanian citizenship “looks like a miserable farce.” Lithuania’s deputy minister of internal affairs, Arnoldas Abramavicius, argued in July that Drobiazko was not “some kind of terrorist” but that “support to the aggressor state can be both moral and financial.” 

The move to revoke Drobiazko’s citizenship comes after Lithuania introduced a law earlier this year which permits the removal of passports previously issued by virtue of contributions to sport or culture, should the person be suspected of opposing the country’s security interests.