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Baltic minority region scapegoated fo...
Salcininkai
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Oct 2017

Salcininkai, Lithuania’s Polish and Russian-speaking city is only five kilometers from Belarus. In the backdrop of ‘Zapad 2017’ military exercises across the border, Lithuanian government government has finger-pointed at the the substantial Russian-speaking minority for being susceptible to separatism, and held multiple military exercises in the region.

In turn, however, they have demonised the vulnerable population, suffering from depopulation and social exclusion.

In April, 2017, unannounced snap drills in the area became the center of controversy. Armed men in military fatigues took over the local police station and institutions with little resistance from the unprepared security forces. Political fallout from these exercises continue to this day.

Additionally, the voting patterns in Salcininkai and Lithuanian peripheries along the 670 kilometer border with Belarus are firmly with the pro-Kremlin, Polish minority party.

I visited the area to speak to the local people, who are mostly ignored in the public discourse, and explore some of the underlying issues in the region.

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Saber Strike 2017-6
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-7
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-8
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-9
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-1
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-2
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-3
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-4
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-5
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-17
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-15
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-11
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-14
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-12
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-13
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-10
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-16
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Saber Strike 2017-18
Pabrade
By Benas Gerdziunas
15 Jun 2017

Lithuanian military and its NATO allies, trained to fight together in urban conflict scenarios.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 12
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
13 Nov 2016

Vytautas Pusvaskis joined the Soviet resistance in 1945 when he was 15 years old. He worked as an informant and a helper due to his young age. Vytautas was eventually captured and sentenced to death. At the same time, death was abolished in the Soviet Union and he was instead sent to a forced labour camp in Moldova, where he survived for 8 years before faking an illness and securing release. “I joined the RU in 1991, and I’m 87 years old now; and so I still serve.”

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 13
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
13 Nov 2016

Youngsters can join the union at the age of 11, but will not touch a real weapon until the age of 18. Regardless, militarised structure and discipline takes the leading role in their activities.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 02
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
06 Nov 2016

National Defence Volunteers (KASP), part of the Lithuanian armed forces, storm a building occupied by the RU, who pose as the separatists.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 08
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
06 Nov 2016

RU mount a formidable defense against the attacking infantry.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 09
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
06 Nov 2016

KASP is bogged down in close-quarters combat, with the heavily entrenched RU fighters.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 10
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
06 Nov 2016

Flare launched by the attacking military forces signals for the three-pronged attack to begin; heavy snow has fallen overnight.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 03
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Nov 2016

RU member prepares dud IEDs, to ring the ‘separatist’ HQ.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 04
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Nov 2016

Members of the RU wait for the assault to begin. Mindaugas, pictured on the left, said: “It’s just weird how a tiny country Lithuania is perceived by a much greater country, in the sense of size, as an enemy to them.”

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 05
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Nov 2016

RU detain a ‘civilian’ carrying an IED through a makeshift checkpoint.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 06
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Nov 2016

Members of the RU prepare a meal on an open fire. All supplies are self-funded.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 07
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
05 Nov 2016

RU commanders discuss last-minute defense plans for the morning’s assault.

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Benas Gerdziunas Lithuania 01
Lithuania
By Benas Gerdziunas
22 Oct 2016

Neimantas Psilenskis, a member of the RU since he was 14 years old, gets married in the Kaunas Garrison Church. After permission was given to wear the ceremonial uniform, he was greeted by the Honorary Guard himself.

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EDGARAS MATAKAS: The Same Dream
Kaunas
By Berta Tilmantaite
14 Sep 2016

Edgaras’ disability class is reserved for those whose visual impairment is the most severe, i.e., the blind. In competition with other athletes in this category, the 17 year old Lithuanian reached three A level standards. He competed in the 50, 100, and 400 meter freestyle races this fall in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. He is the only swimmer who represented the Lithuanian team in the 2016 Paralympics.

This video complements four other videos featuring Lithuanian Paralympians, alongside eight long-form articles with accompanying still photos. The full multi-media story can be found here at http://nanook.lt/en/will-to-win-hidden Password: nanookwilltowin.

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AUGUSTAS NAVICKAS: 5 minutes of torture
Lithuania
By Berta Tilmantaite
01 Sep 2016

Augustas Navickas is the first and only Lithuanian Paralympian rower. He grew up with the sport and had been training a lot before the spine trauma. His dedication to sport and the support of the people closest to him helped Augustas overcome the hardships that life threw at him. This year, at the end of May, he got a wild card to Rio de Janeiro Paralympics. This video complements four other videos featuring Lithuanian Paralympians, alongside eight long-form articles with accompanying still photos. The full multi-media story can be found here at http://nanook.lt/en/will-to-win-hidden Password: nanookwilltowin.

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LITHUANIAN GOALBALL TEAM: To hear the...
Lithuania
By Berta Tilmantaite
01 Sep 2016

The goalball is the sports game that is gaining popularity with the blind and partially sighted people. In 24 minutes, two teams of three players each, wearing special eyewear that blocks all sight, have to throw the ball into their opponents’ goal. In order to win, athletes have to use senses rarely used in other sports to such extent. There are bells inside the ball, so they have to hear it, and the court borders and team zones are marked by a raised strip, so they have to feel it by touch.

Although the game is largely unknown in Lithuania, it is this Paralympic event that Lithuania is most famous for. Year after year, Lithuanian goalball players have been winning various awards, getting into the top spots of international ratings, and their names have been cited by their rival coaches when ironing out strategies. In the international goalball tournament in July, where a lot of strong teams participated, Lithuania became champions. To be precise, champions and runners-up, for Lithuania was represented by two teams, “Lithuania 1” and “Lithuania 2”.

This video complements four other videos featuring Lithuanian Paralympians, alongside eight long-form articles with accompanying still photos. The full multi-media story can be found here at http://nanook.lt/en/will-to-win-hidden Password: nanookwilltowin.

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TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES: The Everlas...
Lithuania
By Berta Tilmantaite
01 Sep 2016

Four different stories of four different people. Paralympians Ramunė Adomaitienė, Mindaugas Bilius, Jonas Spudis and Kęstutis Skučas have more in common than only Lithuanian names and participant accreditations for the Rio 2016 games.
All of these athletes had to overcome a big trauma and begin a new different life in a new different body. Now they all compete successfully in the international arena, have many medals and records. However, usually their competition does not end at the stadium.

Life, as well as individual sport, requires an individual battle. After winning against stereotypes, fears and their own bodies, Ramunė, Mindaugas, Jonas and Kęstutis could probably calm down and enjoy their triumph. However, they are figthers and they do know that victory can be saved in the one possible way – if your work today is harder than it was yesterday.

This video complements four other videos featuring Lithuanian Paralympians, alongside eight long-form articles with accompanying still photos. The full multi-media story can be found here at http://nanook.lt/en/will-to-win-hidden Password: nanookwilltowin.

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OSVALDAS BARIKIS: Fighting shadows
Lithuania
By Berta Tilmantaite
01 Sep 2016

In 2013, Osvaldas Bareikis became the champion in the World Junior Judo Championship for Visually Impaired and participated in the International Blind Sports Association (IBSA) World Games in Seoul; he is also the winner of the Lithuanian Judo Championship for Blind and Partially Sighted. And he is the only representative of Lithuania in judo in his first, the 2016 Paralympics. This video complements four other videos featuring Lithuanian Paralympians, alongside eight long-form articles with accompanying still photos. The full multi-media story can be found here at http://nanook.lt/en/will-to-win-hidden Password: nanookwilltowin.

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Lithuanian golball team
Vilnius
By Berta Tilmantaite
04 Aug 2016

Lithuanian golball team is preparing for the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.

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Lithuanian golball team
Vilnius
By Berta Tilmantaite
04 Aug 2016

Lithuanian golball team is preparing for the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.

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Lithuanian golball team
Vilnius
By Berta Tilmantaite
03 Aug 2016

Lithuanian golball team is preparing for the Paralympic Games in Rio 2016.