WARSAW/VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania's prime minister denounced Tuesday the spray painting of Lithuanian-language signs in Poland in Polish colors as incitement to national hatred in the latest dispute between the Baltic neighbors.
Ties between Poland, which holds the European Union's presidency until the end of the year, and its small neighbor Lithuania have become strained over economic cooperation as well as the treatment of the countries' respective ethnic minorities.
Poland's Lithuanian minority accounts for up to 25,000 people living mostly in the northeastern part of the country, where some towns and cities have bilingual signs, as stipulated by Polish law.
Several such signs in the Punsk district, which sits at the Lithuanian border, were sprayed in white and red -- the colors of the Polish flag -- Sunday night, while a Lithuanian memorial stone was covered in nationalist signs.
"What we saw in TV reports from Punsk yesterday is nothing more that incitement of national hatred and very harsh one," Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told Lithuanian radio on Tuesday.
Poland, which has long complained about Lithuania's treatment of its ethnic Polish minority over issues ranging from the spelling of names to land disputes and education, said it was a hooligan prank that violated the law.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Nerijus Adomaitis)