Did Russia's ambassador to Lithuania have holiday cheer in mind when he sent a Christmas gift this month to Vilnius's mayor?
Mayor Remigijus Simasius thinks not.
The present was a bottle of Putinka vodka, a designer booze made in Russia whose name is an affectionate diminutive of Russian President Vladimir Putin's own.
Since receiving what he's convinced is a poisoned chalice in the form of the Putinka bottle, Simasius has fired back at Russia's envoy very publicly.
Sharing an image of the vodka on social media on December 18, Simasius mused about what to do with the gift: "Send it back or sell to collect some $ for Russian freedom fighters?"
Simasius returned to the topic days later, adding on December 21:
"Is there any other country in the world whose ambassador gives vodka named after its president as a Christmas gift?"
Good question. But then, there are few diplomats who have as bad relations with the mayor of their host city as Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Udaltsov has with his.
Lithuania and its eastern European neighbors have expressed concern since Russia invaded a fellow former Soviet republic, Ukraine, and annexed Crimea in early 2014. They have responded in earnest to Moscow's trolling on the roots of Baltic States' independence and stirring things up among their Russian minorities, a cross-border kidnapping, and threats to prosecute Red Army malingerers, and midair near-misses and provocative military drills near Baltic borders. Among other countermeasures, recent months have seen the reinstating of the draft in Lithuania, new links with the West to reduce Baltic energy dependence on Russia, and a bid to collect compensation from Moscow for the damages inflicted by nearly a half-century of Soviet occupation.
Beyond the broader tensions between the Russian and Lithuanian governments, Udaltsov seems to be on the lookout for ways to bait Simasius, including extending an invitation in July to visit Crimea, the Russian-occupied peninsula that most of the world sees as still belonging to Ukraine.
The mayor riposted that he would come, but only if he were invited by the Ukrainian ambassador.
'Tis the season to be jolly and let bygones be bygones. But if the spat in Vilnius is any indication, Moscow's man in Lithuania is having too much fun trolling his hosts to stop.