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Lithuania presidential hopefuls: tone down Russia rhetoric

In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, Economist Gitanas Nauseda and Former finance minister Ingrida Simonyte, left, a presidential candidates, pose for the media prior to the start of the televised live debate in Vilnius, Lithuania. Gitanas Nauseda and a former finance minister Ingrida Simonyte held the top two spots in returns from Lithuania’s presidential election Sunday, May 26 and appeared headed to a runoff ballot later this month to choose a successor to incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Former finance minister Ingrida Simonyte, a presidential candidate, speaks during a live, televised presidential debate at the S. Daukanto Square, in front of the Presidential Palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Friday, May 24, 2019. Gitanas Nauseda and a former finance minister Ingrida Simonyte held the top two spots in returns from Lithuania’s presidential election Sunday, May 26 and appeared headed to a runoff ballot later this month to choose a successor to incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

Lithuanians are choosing a new president in a runoff vote between two candidates who both say they want to maintain a strict tone toward neighboring Russia while easing sometimes harsh rhetoric.

Gitanas Nauseda, a prominent economist, and Ingrida Simonyte, a former finance minister, are vying to succeed the popular Dalia Grybauskaite, who has called Russia “a terrorist state.”

Both candidates in this NATO member have said they won’t go to Moscow and meet President Vladimir Putin unless Russia withdraws from Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

That move sparked fears that other former Soviet republics, including the Baltic states, could be next.

The campaign ahead of Sunday’s second round has been dominated by voters’ anger over economic inequality — one of the highest in the European Union — and corruption.

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