Ready for Russia: Lithuanians taught how to resist invasion

Copies of manual, with tips on civil disobedience, given to schools and libraries after Trump victory threatens Nato alliance

The Lithuanian defence ministry has issued 30,000 copies of an instruction manual advising citizens on what to do in the event of a Russia-led invasion.

The release of the 75-page paperback, entitled Guide to Active Resistance, comes amid increased fears of Russian aggression following the election of Donald Trump, who stated during his campaign that he would review the US’s position on defending Nato allies.

Such manuals have been published three times since 2014, when they were first issued as part of Lithuania’s response to the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea.

The first edition, How to Act in Extreme Situations or Instances of War, included instructions on forms of civil disobedience in the event of occupation, describing strikes, blockades, disinformation and the organisation of cyber-attacks against the enemy.

It assured readers that gunshots outside “are not the end of the world”, and that another method of resistance could be to do one’s job “worse than normal”.

The second edition, Prepare to Survive Emergencies and War: a Cheerful Take on Serious Recommendations, was reissued and updated at the end of 2015, and featured illustrations of a family cat.

The latest is more clearly pointed at Russia, after a series of military moves in the Baltic region by the Kremlin since Trump, a supporter of President Vladimir Putin, was elected in the US.

The manual outlines how the public can recognise Russian-made guns, tanks, mines and other military hardware, while urging citizens to spy and report on the enemy should Lithuania once again fall under Russian occupation.

US soldiers occupy an enemy trench during Nato military exercises on 24 November.
US soldiers occupy an enemy trench during Nato military exercises in November. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

All three “how to” manuals are available on the Lithuanian defence ministry’s website, and were created in collaboration with the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union. Copies have been distributed to schools, libraries and other public institutions across the country.

Povilas Poderskis, a 26-year-old volunteer in the Lithuanian military, praised the latest manual for informing the public about self-defence. “Military training is not for everyone,” he said. “It’s great to see a broad viewon different ways of non-violent resistance. It is a good, inclusive strategy that can bond people together.”

He said the manuals had also been useful in assuaging public fears about an invasion. “I think it does [calm people],” he said. “The media is constantly shooting out messages about the escalating conflict – they are exaggerated, but knowing how to deal with emergencies in case they happen can provide some sense of calmness.”

In October, the Russian military reportedly transported a nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missile system to the Kaliningrad region, a Russian enclave that borders Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region. In November, the Kremlin deployed Bastion supersonic cruise missiles to Kaliningrad, which have a range of up to 280 miles (450km) and can be used against ships and ground targets.

These moves, taken in the context of Trump’s victory and comments about Nato, have raised fears that the Nato alliance, seen as preventing Russian expansionism, could be under threat.

However senior government ministers have sought to play down the significance of the manuals, and have assured citizens they are not concerned about a change in US-Lithuania relations, despite Trump’s apparent support for Putin.

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevičius, called for calm. “There will be no changes with regard to the US foreign policy, and when Trump comes to office we expect business to continue as normal – that will be that the US will remain a key ally for us in Europe,” he said.

The defence minister, Juozas Olekas, said the manuals were a response to increasing public demand for heightened national security. “Our citizens want the basic knowledge on how to survive, and how we can demonstrate that our people are ready to act against any aggression and fight for every centimetre of our land,” he added.

George East in Vilnius

The GuardianTramp

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