The severe nature of their ban from the country raises several questions about the nature of the nuclear power nexus that is gripping Lithuania, where a referendum on its planned Visaginas nuclear power plant will be held next month. That the travel ban comes from an EU nation threatens to block Novikova’s ability to travel anywhere in the Schengen zone.
Neighboring Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kalininingrad are also planning nuclear plants of their own with Russian funding.
Activists and some members of the government have long questioned the Visaginas plant, which would be built by Hitachi Europe, and an August poll suggested that 48 percent of the country’s voters would come out against its construction the referendum. Earlier polls have suggested 65 percent would vote against the plant.
Plans for the plant have also caused high-level political struggles. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius called for Parliament to reject the referendum, calling it “not necessary.” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, however, said the referendum would be “another opportunity and obligation for the government to better introduce the public to this project.”
Lithuania and Belarus have also traded barbs against one another’s plans to build nuclear power plants, and Lithuania has invoked the Espoo Convention against Belarus’s plans, with the convention’s Implementation Committee declaring the Belarus plant to be in violation of its norms.
In June, Lithuanian parliament approved an agreement that provides the contractual framework for Visaginas.
Novikova and Ulasevich were on their way to Vilnius for a conference entitled “Lithuania – Belarus: Nuclear Neighborhood” which was held in Lithuanian Parliament on Wednesday, and to which Novikova and Ulasevich had – as long time campaigners against nuclear power in Lithuania, Belarus and Kaliningrad – been officially invited.
Novikova has said in several statements since the incident that pressure from Lithuania’s nuclear lobby, and not diplomatic or immigration department concerns, had influenced the Lithuania Foreign Ministry to ban her and her colleague from entering the country.
“How deplorable, watching nuclear lobbyists still able to influence the decisions made in their countries, that, scrambling in a panic before the referendum, which they fear like the devil fears holy water, they are still able to exert pressure on government ministries and agencies,” wrote Novikova Wednesday on her blog at Belarussky Partisan (in Russian). “How sad, that in doing so, they are still able to mar the image of their own country.”
A spokesman for the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry who refused to give his name, citing policy, confirmed to Bellona on Friday by telephone that “Novikova, a Belarusian citizen, and several others, were declared personae non grata” and that her name had been registered on a “blacklist” with Lithuania’s Migration Department.
“We received a formal inquiry from the parliament regarding Nokikova’s status and have forwarded it to the consulate of Belarus,” said the spokesman.
He said he was not authorized to discuss why Novikova and the Ulasevich had received blacklisted status in Lithuania, but also said “concerns of any number of state structures, even the nuclear industry could have played a role,” but referred Bellona to the Migration Department for further inquiries.
Several telephone calls to the Migration Department went unanswered.
The foreign ministry spokesman would not comment on whether Lithuania’s status to blacklist the two activists would hold weight with other EU nations.
Hitachi Europe firmly denied through a spokesman that it had anything to do with the blacklisting.
“We are a business and are not involved in deciding who can and cannot enter democratic countries around the world,” said the spokesman in a telephone interview with Bellona, who, citing corporate policy, asked to remain unnamed.
Visit was official
Both Novikova and Ulasevich have also been visiting Lithuania regularly for years to attend official parliamentary conferences and to participate in anti-nuclear protests arranged by non-government organizations with no trouble from Lithuanian authorities.
Nokikova’s only arrest tied to her activist activities occurred in her home country of Belarus in July, when she and three other activists attempted to pass an open statement protesting the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Minsk.
She was detained on administrative charged for five days, and denied medicines she has to take for a thyroid condition.
Arrested with her was Andrei Ozharovsky, another Bellona contributor and a nuclear physicist, who was held in a Minsk jail on administrative charges for 10 days. Upon his release, he was told he could not renter Belarus for 10 years.
Also arrested were Irina Sukhy of Ekodom, who was released the same day wiht a fine, and Mikhail Matskevich of the Center for Legal Transformation, who served a three-day administrative sentence.
Novikova sees nuclear industry ‘intimidation’ behind her expulsion
Novikova wrote on Belarussky Partisan Novikova, that: “In Lithuania, the nuclear industry has exercised something that cannot be called anything but intimidation.”
“It was precisely with intimidation that they declared Nikolai Ulasevich and me, who are well known in our own country for the struggle against the Ostrovets (Belarusian) Nuclear Power Plant personae non grata,” she continued.
Novikova and Ulasevich, in a statement they sent to international environmental organizations, have issued an appeal to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to reverse the decision against them entering the country, and for the Lithuanian parliament to appropriately review the decision.
Sign a petition urging the Lithuanian government to lift the persona non grata status from Novikova and Ulasevich here.