Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
On duty they guard Lithuania’s highest-security objects like the liquefied natural gas terminal in Klaipėda or Vilnius Airport. Off duty some of them curse Ukraine and adore Russia and share «opinions» on what the surest way to blow up the LNG facility is. This is the basis to the claims by the new commander of Lithuania’s Public Security Service (VST), Ričardas Pocius that there’s a bunch disloyal to the state officers in the ranks.
A lot of mess was found
The new chief has also disclosed other mess he found in the organization: redundant positions, protectionism and widespread employment of relatives, poor provision of equipment and weaponry, the use of VST for private businesses and a bunch of officers disloyal to Lithuania.
The good news is that out of the 1000-people service only a dozen of them are deemed disloyal so the state. And those despising Lithuania and worshiping Russia have never in fact until now acted against state of Lithuania yet.
The bad news is that, over all the years, the service has avoided any scrutiny and, seemingly, accountability, too. What makes things even worse is that VST officers could access secret state information on the activities of the LNG terminal and Vilnius Airport.
Pocius insisted in the interview that, although assigned to guard key objects, including the LNG terminal in Klaipėda and Vilnius Airport, some of VST officers exuded fascination with Russia and its policies.
«They showed affection for the idea of re-establishing a Russian empire. They would exalt «Berkut» (once a special police force of the Ukrainian police and, now, it is the name for Russian Crimean police-L.J) and its actions during Maidan events (they marked Ukraine’s revolution in 2014-L.J). Some of them would curse the Ukrainian nation and adore people from the special police units who were shooting at the peaceful demonstrators. Some of VST men wear ribbons of Saint George in their personal pages on social media and are proud of that (Saint George’s ribbon is a widely recognized military symbol in Russia which appears as a component of many high military decorations awarded by the former the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation now-L.J). Also on social media, some officials admit they are assigned to protect the liquefied natural gas terminal and brag they know how to annihilate it,» Pocius said, asking rhetorically, «Is all that normal? It is not, certainly.»
PM was «aware» of the situation
After the revelation, the highest Lithuanian officials of power were seemingly not caught off guard with it
Although PM Algirdas Butkevičius has asked Lithuania’s State Security Department to launch investigation into the situation, he admitted has was «aware» of it for a while.
«What is the worst that the service employs officials who are not just loyal to Russia, but also who have access to secret information,» the prime minister said.
Butkevičius acknowledged he had been told about the situation within the VST ranks, but could not bring it up earlier as information of that kind was supposed to be secret.
«Back in summer, I got acquainted with all the information that Interior minister Saulius Skvernelis submitted to me. In fact, we have done quite a big work since receiving it: respective services collected information a couple of months find out what relatives of VST officers are employed in the service; also, how many of them are on the payroll though they do not show up for work; how many of the officers are possibly disloyal to the state and so on,» Butkevičius said.
After former VST chief Sergejus Madalov was fired, Pocius, the new commander, did some sweeping in the ranks, sacking several officers and shuffling others around the guarded objects.
«People can be fired only following the letter of law; the suspicions of disloyalty to the state are no enough to have them dismissed…What we do now we are trying to find out who they are and hand them to respective state services which will decide their fate,» Pocius said.
Just get online and do some browsing
Asked by journalists how he sorted out loyal VST officials from disloyal ones, he responded he stumbled upon «some interesting information» when browsing Russian social media sites.
«What one has to do is to get online and plunge into the realm of mighty internet, which does not require special surveillance tools. What you have to do is just browse the sites and see what some of the people post on them. I mean not on the Lithuanian webpages, but those belonging to a neighbouring country. There you can find that some VST officials introduce themselves as fans of the Russian empire and more,» Pocius said.
He confessed to have spoken to some officers being suspected of disloyalty to the state.
«They were excusing themselves by saying that they acted foolishly and regretted for the behaviour, asking for forgiveness. But the words «forgive me» cannot be used in the case, as we are talking about some very grave issues,» the VST colonel said, adding that disloyal officers account for «single persons.»
To the speculation that he has brought up the issue of disloyalty in order to secure a bigger funding for the service next year, Pocius responded that «it is not the way it is being done.»
«We will not solve the issue of financing through such kind of articles. The society has to know what is going on and how things are (in the service),» he said.
Disloyal officers can be found in other force services, too
After the interview was out he was summoned for explanation to Lithuanian Parliament’s National Security and Defence Committee (NSGK) along with Interior minister Saulius Skvernelis and State Security Department (VSD) chief Darius Jauniškis.
Artūras Paulauskas, the NSGK chairman, admitted in the hearing he had heard first of the plight in the Public Security Service yet during the past summer.
«Now we did not hear anything particularly new. Perhaps just the numbers on the officers related through various family ties got us surprised. The number was put at 300,» Paulauskas said.
Speaking to BNN, he insisted the situation has been addressed but hinted disloyal officers can be «possibly» found in other services, too.
«Our Committee has also been informed about officials possibly disloyal to the state in other state enforcement bodies, including police and border patrol, for example,» he said.
Paulauskas expressed surprise that the new VST commander cannot fire officials under his supervision on the grounds of suspicions on disloyalty.
«They swear under oath and commit to Lithuania to respect Lithuanian laws, Constitution and perform duties and serve the public accordingly. I reckon if a person wants to publicly advise someone how to explode the terminal, or if he gets photos taken with insignia of a foreign army, or glorify it and its aggression, that should suffice to bid a farewell to the person,» the Committee chairman reasoned.
Pocius had asked NSGK an extra 10 million euros for the service in 2016 and the Committee chairman, arguing that the request cannot be satisfied fully, hinted that an additional funding will be allotted to acquire necessary equipment for VST.
Interior minister: VST will be «fundamentally transformed»
Meanwhile, Saulius Skvernelis, the interior minister, promised that the Public Security Service will be «fundamentally transformed.»
«There should be no officers disloyal to the state left and suspected embezzlement of funds will be investigated by law enforcement,» he said, adding, «most of the people in the Public Security Service are competent, professional and loyal, regardless of their ethnicity. They were subjected to conditions where they had to work for interests of a small group.»
Commenting on the reforms inside the institution, the Interior minister also added that «the service will be re-equipped with modern weapons conforming to NATO standards».
«We are talking about it with the armed forces. We are already changing the bulletproof vests, helmets and other equipment. But the most important thing that I would like to emphasize is that the tactics will be changed as well,» he told Delfi.lt.