This wake-up call came at just the right moment, for Russia's radical assault on human rights and liberties also had an enormous impact on Lithuania, whose legislation was quickly adorned with anti-human rights initiatives that would make even the most loyal Kremlin crony blush. The assault on the European Court of Human Rights, human rights defenders, the European Union and especially the Nordic States had reached such intensity that it became a part of mainstream politics.
The awakening was abrupt, full of heated debates about the red line between the Kremlin and the West, with a gradually dawning understanding of what our real choices in the face of information warfare were. It is good to know that even those politicians who have fully embraced populist anti-human rights rhetoric seemingly avoid the Novorussiya project, understanding full well that the restored Soviet empire would probably not bless them with the freedom of speech or movement, the right to free elections and all the other privileges that we now take for granted.
"The Soviet Union is back – it’s here once again and people are again put behind bars for sharing news from the free world," said Vira, sister of Nadya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was kidnapped. "The only difference is that nowadays this happens not through leaflets printed by the underground, but through sharing on Twitter and Facebook; the price, however, is the same – freedom..."
A survey commissioned by HRMI and carried out by Vilmorus in December 2014 revealed that we live in an unprecedented situation – public faith in the ability and willingness of the authorities to remedy rights violations had hit rock bottom. 95% of people who thought that their rights had been violated did not go to any institution for help – they were convinced that it would not change anything. I have no doubt that this is partly a result of the constant influence exerted from without by our eastern neighbour – supporting our own loudmouths when it is convenient, denigrating the "rotten", "perverted" European Union and trying to prove that the authorities nowadays think nothing of the average citizen.
However, there are signs that the authorities, politicians and officials at the highest level of government are starting to understand the priorities in strengthening national security, as well as the fact that the first and last line of defence is drawn in the minds of our citizens. Just as intelligent parents raise their children by example, it is time for our country to understand that we can no longer afford the luxury of not having a human rights policy, that the comments of high-ranking officials leave a tangible mark on public opinion and that only a real, honest and transparent approach to old problems can solidify confidence in national human rights protection mechanisms and create a society that is significantly more resistant to manipulation.
It is my hope that the coming year will be marked by real, everyday, practical human rights work that integrates the understanding of our fundamental rights and freedoms into all levels of state activity and ensures that each person is able to access information in a way that he or she understands – thus, ultimately, building a state that no one wants to leave.
Executive Director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute