Lithuania, concerned about losing a strong defender of Russian sanctions in the European Union, has called for a gradual British exit from the EU that preserves ties with London.
"We would like to preserve what is not yet destroyed, what is possible to preserve," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters at the United Nations on June 27.
The foreign minister expressed worries that "the voices of the more principled positions will be weaker" within the European Union when it comes to dealing with Russia.
He said he had discussed the matter with his counterparts from the Baltics and Nordic countries, and they agreed that there should be a "civilized process" for new relations with Britain.
He described the United Kingdom as a "strategic ally" that in the past was a strong advocate within the EU for advancing security, human rights, and democracy in Europe.
Lithuania's call for gradual change that does not "rush to expel Britain" echoes Germany's cautious approach and contrasts with the quick move to divorce ties advocated by France and Italy.
Linkevicius criticized the growing number of EU states that advocate a "more pragmatic and flexible" approach to sanctions against Russia. He said this is "very counterproductive" and said the response to ineffective sanctions should be "more sanctions."
Italy, Hungary, France's parliament, and some top German officials have called for a gradual lifting of sanctions on Russia, but Britain maintained a hard line, saying there should be no letup without progress on ending the conflict in Ukraine.
Linkevicius' remarks came ahead of an EU meeting this week that is expected to roll over for another six months the economic sanctions that were first imposed against Russia after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.