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Vilnius police launch probe after LGBT crossing is painted over

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A rainbow-coloured crossing in Vilnius, Lithuania on the International Day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia on May 17, 2021.
A rainbow-coloured crossing in Vilnius, Lithuania on the International Day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia on May 17, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis
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Police in the Lithuania capital have launched an investigation after several people were filmed painting over a rainbow-coloured crossing.

The incident took place on May 31. In a video posted on Facebook, four people can be seen spray painting over the rainbow-coloured crossing and disrupting traffic.

Lithuanian MP Tomas Raskevičius, shared the video, writing: "These people are terrorists in plain sight."

Police in Vilnius confirmed to Euronews that they have "initiated two administrative proceedings for a minor violation of public order."

"While the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further on its details," they added.

Contacted by Euronews, the city council said they would repaint the rainbow in the same area.

"We will bill the people who painted it black. Vilnius loves everybody, and supports everybody," they said in a statement.

The incident came just a day before the start of Pride Month, celebrated globally throughout June, and days after a bill to legalise same-sex partnerships in the small Baltic country failed to clear its first parliamentary hurdle.

The bill, which aims to grant LBGT+ couples access to certain benefits including joint ownership of property and inheritance rights, was met by protests with thousands taking part in a "Great Family Defence March" in Vilnius earlier that month.

According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), the latest incident in Vilnius is part of a pattern of increased "hostility and hate we are witnessing across Europe."

"Fifty-five per cent of Lithuanian LGBTI respondents have been discriminated against in the past 12 months, the highest rate in the EU, according to the Fundamental Rights Agency survey of 2020. In our Annual Review we reported too cases of bias-motivated speech and language last year," ILGA Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendube, told Euronews.

"Authorities in Lithuania and elsewhere must stand strong and protect LGBTI people from hate. We hope that the rainbow will be repainted soon and that authorities in Vilnius will prevent this act of violence from happening again," she added.