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7 Mar, 2024 17:34

EU state strips star ballerina of citizenship

Lithuania has decided that a Russian dancer represented a “security threat”
EU state strips star ballerina of citizenship

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda signed a decree on Thursday revoking the citizenship of ballerina Ilze Liepa, over her recent statements to the media that have supposedly threatened the security of the EU and NATO member, by expressing solidarity with Russia.

The Moscow-born Liepa, 60, was granted Lithuanian citizenship in 2000, as a recognition for years of performing at the Bolshoi Theater with Lithuanian ballet dancer Petras Skirmantas.

Nauseda’s aide Ridas Jasiulionis confirmed the presidential decision to the Delfi outlet on Thursday, saying that the citizenship had been revoked on grounds of national security.

Reacting to the decision, Liepa told RT that she has given a lot to Lithuania and had many relatives, friends and acquaintances there.

“But the time comes when you need to make a moral choice. And I confirm that I stand with my country and with my president. Because that world – which is now against us – and I are not on the same path. Their values are not mine.”

Lithuanian authorities started proceedings against Liepa last November, after she condemned the destruction of Soviet WWII monuments in the Baltic states and described the Ukraine conflict as a “special military operation.”

The government in Vilnius has sided with Kiev in the Ukraine conflict, going so far as to call Russia the “aggressor state.”

Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite had accused Liepa of threatening the national security of Lithuania with her statements, while Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said that people who were not granted citizenship by birthright had no right to disagree with official state policy.

Lithuanian laws allow the government to revoke the citizenships of people like Liepa if they publicly support a government that poses a threat not just to the Baltic state, but also the EU or any of its other members, or “the security interests of their allies.”

Last September, Vilnius revoked the citizenship of ice dancer Margarita Drobiazko, because she and her husband Povilas Vanagas took part in a project organized by Tatyana Navka, wife of the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. 

Lithuania declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ethnic Russians made up almost 10% of the Baltic republic’s population at the time, but were estimated at only 5.1% as of 2023.