January 24, 2023

President Zelensky Awarded Vilnius as “Rescuer City” Just Before Its Official 700th Birthday

President Zelensky has granted an honorary title, “Rescuer City,” to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, for its continued multidirectional support to the people and cities of Ukraine. The title was bestowed just one day before the city’s 700th anniversary at an international conference, Champion Cities Summit 2023, held in Vilnius, where European city leaders gathered to discuss the most pertinent issues of the region.

January 24, 2023. Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine, has given the honorary title “Rescuer City” to Vilnius for its continuous support of Ukraine. The decree granting the title to Vilnius and signed by President Zelensky on January 24th was presented by Petro Beshta, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Republic of Lithuania, at the international conference Champion Cities Summit 2023, which was held in Vilnius just one day before the city’s official 700th anniversary starting on January 25th. Among the summit attendees were notable European city leaders—mayors of Vilnius, Lviv, Warsaw, Reykjavik, and Tallinn, Deputy Mayor of Riga, and other officials.

Upon accepting the title on behalf of the city, Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, pledged to provide even more humanitarian aid to Ukraine valued at a symbolic amount of EUR 700K. The aid is slated to be used for the needs of Vilnius’ partner cities, Kyiv and Lviv.

“I want to extend my gratitude to all citizens of Vilnius who are the real rescuers and supporters of Ukraine and have been contributing with financial support and welcoming refugees to their homes and hearts. I am grateful to Vilnius City Council for agreeing to continuously help Ukraine, both morally and financially. And I also invite all European city leaders who have gathered today to support Ukraine’s fight until the victory,” Šimašius said. 

The title is an honorable mark established by the President of Ukraine as a recognition of humanism, mercy, and solidarity with the Ukrainian people in defending the ideals of freedom, peace, and democracy displayed by foreign city residents. At the same time, it represents support of the Ukrainian state in protecting its independence and sovereignty during the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. 

“Vilnius is a prominent capital with a profound history and deep respect for freedom. Continuing the legacy of boldness established 700 years ago, it has supported Ukraine’s struggle from day one and is a leading example of the values of a freedom fighter,” Ambassador Petro Beshta commented when bestowing the title.

Vilnius has been active in supporting Ukraine since the first days of the war by organizing refugee relocation and accommodation, ensuring education to refugee children, providing various exemptions to the newly relocated, etc. Financially, it is estimated that Vilnius has already provided EUR 1M worth of aid to Ukrainian cities. 

Champion Cities Summit 2023 also hosted a panel Freedom Fighters: Cities United with Ukraine dedicated to discussing the most pressing topics related to further supporting Ukraine. Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv, Rafał Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw, Mihhail Kõlvart, Mayor of Tallinn, Linda Ozola, Deputy Mayor of Riga, Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius were key speakers at the panel.

From the start of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine back in February 2022, Vilnius organized a number of protests—Putin’s life-size cardboard cutout was “imprisoned” in a former century-old Lukiškės Prison 2.0, the name of the street where the Embassy of Russia is based was changed to Ukrainian Heroes Street, and a pond near the embassy was dyed red to symbolize the spilled Ukrainians’ blood. Šimašius himself also painted the writing “Putin, the Hague is waiting for you” on the street outside the Embassy and put it on the banner placed on the Vilnius Municipality building.