The Soviet republic of Byelorussia said Friday it would lay claim to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, and six other districts if Lithuania’s move to secede from the Soviet Union is successful.
Byelorussia’s Parliament said in a statement that agreements in 1939 and 1940 on the disputed territory would become invalid if Lithuania became independent.
The announcement opened up a potential hornet’s nest of claims and counterclaims over a region that has been fought over by innumerable rulers for centuries. A volunteer at the Lithuanian government’s Information Bureau said Vilnius, which is barely 18 miles from the current border, had never belonged to Byelorussia.
A journalist at Radio Vilnius said there were territorial claims on all sides. The Byelorussian town of Grodno, for example, was once part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, he said.