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As prepared

Thank you, Foreign Minister Landsbergis for the warm welcome to Lithuania. It is an honor to be here and have the opportunity to discuss our mutual commitments to democracy and human rights.  And especially here, where 30 years ago Lithuanians pushed back against the Soviet Union’s efforts to crush their democratic aspirations.

Foremost, on behalf of the United States, I would like to thank Lithuania for hosting the Future of Democracy Forum, which will build momentum for the December Summit for Democracy.

As the minister noted, democracies are facing unprecedented challenges today, but together with allies like Lithuania, we can demonstrate that democracies are indeed capable of rising to the occasion. And that democracies do deliver better lives for our citizens.  Societies that respect and defend human rights; uphold the rule of law; and support inclusive, accountable governance for all their citizens are best equipped to produce durable solutions to even the most difficult problems.

We commend Lithuania for its generous support for the Belarusian pro-democracy movement, including offering safe haven to many Belarusian democracy advocates. We are also grateful to Lithuania for facilitating the establishment of a Belarus Affairs Unit at U.S. Embassy Vilnius.

The United States stands in support of the Belarusian people’s aspirations for a democratic, free, and prosperous future. The Lukashenka regime continues to carry out a violent crackdown on fundamental freedoms and human rights, commits egregious human rights abuses, and unjustly detains over 870 political prisoners.  Among those whose names you will recognize are:

  • RFE/RL journalist Ihar Losik,
  • Syarhey Tsikhanouski,
  • Viktar Babaryka,
  • Maria Kalesnikava,
  • Katsiaryna Andreyeva,
  • and Darya Chultsova.

To all those unjustly detained, please know that the U.S. stands by you. We firmly reiterate our call for the immediate release of all political prisoners.

We condemn the Lukashenka regime’s efforts to distract the international community from the horrific abuses it continues to commit against Belarusians by callously and inhumanely orchestrating irregular migration flows across its borders. We recognize the imperative of the Lithuanian government, and others impacted by the actions of Belarus, to secure their borders.

Belarus is just one example of the rise of authoritarianism around the world. Sadly, we are also seeing a rise anti-Semitism globally, and it is imperative to counter it wherever it exists. This includes combatting Holocaust distortion.

No country’s history is without difficult moments and uncomfortable truths; only by honestly examining our past can we secure a future free from hatred and bigotry, and where the inherent dignity of all persons is respected.

Here in Lithuania, I am impressed that the government has commemorated the 80th anniversary of the start of the Holocaust in Lithuania in a deeply meaningful way, including through its series of Memory Road events around the country, honoring the lives lost and having difficult conversations about what happened here and who was involved in these acts.

This morning, I paid a deeply moving visit to the former Vilnius Jewish Ghetto and met with the chair of the Lithuanian Jewish Community. I affirmed the United States commitment to condemning and combating anti-Semitism and Holocaust distortion and denial in all its forms, in addition to supporting Holocaust commemoration and education efforts here in Lithuania and all over the world.

On the subject of inherent dignity, promoting respect for the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons is also a foreign policy priority for the Biden Administration.

I am inspired by LGBTQI+ activists and their courage in advocating for their human rights here in Lithuania, such as moving forward with activities like Kaunas Pride. We support their efforts and look forward to helping advocate for their human rights through activities such as Baltic Pride next year.

The United States has placed democracy and human rights at the center of our foreign policy, and as likeminded partners both recently elected to the UN Human Rights Council, we look forward to deepening our cooperation with Lithuania on these important issues. Thank you for having me.

U.S. Department of State

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