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Monday 23.01.2017 | Name days: Strauta, Grieta
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Lithuanian PM: Lithuania has not decided yet on arms supply to Ukraine

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Author: AFP/SCANPIX

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius

Lithuania’s ambassador in Ukraine may be in hot water pledging military support to Ukraine when in fact Lithuania has not made any decisions in that regard, says the Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius.

«The issue should be discussed at a meeting of the State Defence Council. So far, I haven’t heard about plans to hold the meeting anytime soon. No leader can make the decision without the council’s meeting,» the prime minister told journalists, commenting media reports about statements made by Lithuania’s Ambassador to Ukraine Marius Janukonis, who said that Vilnius planned to start supplying arms to Kiev.

The ambassador added that Lithuania’s governmental institutions wanted to «demonstrate the principle to other countries – about helping Ukraine by all means, including the military ones.»

«When speaking about supply of weapons to Ukraine, Lithuanian Ambassador to Ukraine Marius Janukonis exceeded his powers as there are no such decisions made yet,» the Lithuanian PM says.

« I believe the ambassador exceeded his powers. We support Ukraine but are definitely not sending weapons,» he told journalists in Vilnius on Monday. Asked what the reaction to the ambassador’s statement would be, the prime minister said that «the foreign minister will come back from his business trip and then a conversation will be held.»

Lithuania possibly in talks with Statoil

Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis has not denied that Lithuania is in talks with Norway’s Statoil on a more flexible schedule of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, saying that various operating modes at Klaipėda LNG terminal and its possibilities are currently being tried out and that the ministry has asked companies related to the LNG facility to prepare for various possible scenarios.

The minister admitted though that information about the talks with Statoil has been made public somewhat prematurely.

The minister pointed out last week to an error in Bloomberg’s report that Klaipėdos Nafta (Klaipėda Oil), the LNG terminal’s operator, was in talks with Norway’s Statoil on lower LNG imports.

«There is an error, because Klaipėdos Nafta does not sell gas. Klaipėdos Nafta could not comment on what other companies are doing because it does not know it,» he said.

Under a long-term gas supply contract signed between Statoil and Lithuania’s state-controlled natural gas trading company Litgas, the Norwegian company is to supply 540 million cubic meters of gas to the Klaipėda LNG facility annually for five years. Unofficial sources have said that Litgas will not be able to sell some 150-200 million cubic meters of the annual volume contracted from Statoil this year and around 240 million cubic meters next year.

Nordic, Baltic and Poland are Europe’s new frontline

Europe’s new front-line states are the Nordic countries, Baltic countries, plus Poland, which share a common concern about a «revisionist and rapidly-rearming Russia», according to the Baltic Sea Security Report by the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).

The three states most vulnerable to Russian subversion or surprise attack are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the report indicates.

«The Nordic five – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, the Baltic three – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – and Poland are rich enough on paper “to defend themselves: their combined gross domestic product is USD 2.3 trillion (2.05 trillion euro), roughly a third more than Russia’s USD 1.7 trillion 1.52 trillion euro). But these countries are divided – into NATO and non-NATO, EU and non-EU, big and small, rich and poor, heavy spenders on defence and free riders,» says the report.

«The Baltic States fear any dilution of the Article 5 guarantee; Denmark is also skeptical of anything that might weaken the centrality of NATO. Norway, which has by far the largest interests in the Arctic, fears that the other countries do not understand the threats and opportunities it faces. The Nordic five are prosperous and established democracies, but they fear that the poorer and worse-governed Baltic States will not fit into their existing cooperation. The Baltic states do not trust each other or cooperate smoothly, and are worried that the rest of the region regards them as too small and too vulnerable to be taken seriously,» CEPA describes the situation in the region.

CEPA also believes that NATO needs to pre-position equipment and ammunition in the Baltic States, and allied forces need to be a robust and permanent presence in the region. Just as the NATO warplanes that take part in the air-policing mission do not need a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to allow them to scramble to see off an intruder, the same should be true of the NATO land and sea forces in the Baltics. The indispensable coordinator and instigator of all these efforts is the United States, believes CEPA.

Candidates for ambassadors approved

The Lithuanian Government has approved candidates for three ambassadorial positions.

Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Rolandas Kriščiūnas is being proposed for the position of Lithuania’s ambassador to the United States.

Valentina Zeitler is being nominated for the position of ambassador to Switzerland and Sigutė Jakštonytė has been chosen to lead Lithuania’s Embassy in the Republic of South Africa, currently being set up. In Lithuania, ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president, but nominated by the government and have to be endorsed by the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Kriščiūnas should assume his new position on August 3, replacing Žygimantas Pavilionis whose term expires on July 30. Kriščiūnas was appointed a vice-minister of foreign affairs in late 2012. He previously served as a finance vice-minister for three years. In 1998-2001, he worked at the Lithuanian Embassy in the United States, and later held several positions at the Ministry of Finance.

Zeitler should assume her ambassadorial post on July 27. She previously worked at Lithuania’s Embassies in Ukraine, Austria and Germany. Jakštonytė is also set to start working in South Africa on July 27. She is currently director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Law and International Treaties Department. She previously served as Lithuania’s ambassador to Canada and worked at Lithuania’s Embassy in the US and the country’s Permanent Representation to the EU.

Two Lithuanian co-productions receive Eurimages funding

The Council of Europe’s film support fund, extended a grant of 50,000 euro to the film Deadweight directed by Ignas Miškinis. The film is produced by Tremora (Lithuania) and co-produced by Film Angels Productions (Latvia), reports the Lithuanian Film Centre. In the list of supported projects there is also another coproduction of Baltic countries – Pretenders. It was supported with120,000 euro. The film will be directed by Vallo Toomla and is a co-production of Amrion Ou (Estonia), Locomotive Productions (Latvia) and Uljana Kim ir Ko (Lithuania). In total Eurimages supported 27 European co-production projects during this session. A total of 7,745,000 euro has been distributed. Eight co-productions with the Lithuanian participation have received the Eurimages’ support since the country became a member.

Free movement is fundamental for EU

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with British Prime Minister David Cameron in Brussels on Thursday, June 25, and stressed that any EU reform must not undermine free movement of people, goods, services and capital. The Lithuanian leader and British prime minister met ahead of a European Council meeting, her press service said in a statement. Cameron plans to address EU leaders and present London’s wish to loosen ties with the EU.

«The head of state underlined that the EU had to change depending on the changing life. But although changes are necessary, the Community’s principled values must remain intact,» she said. The British government also wants to restrict immigration and plans an in/out referendum on the country’s EU membership.

Amount of US military equipment in Lithuania will vary

The amount of American military equipment deployed in Lithuania will vary, Lithuania’s National Defence Minister Juozas Olekas says, adding that it would change depending on exercises in Eastern Europe.

«We have agreed to have certain weaponry in each of the country and that it would be used in other countries if exercises take place there,» Olekas told Lithuanian journalists in Brussels on Thursday, June 25.

According to the minister, there are no final agreements yet at which training areas in Lithuania the weaponry would be stationed. The United States decides this week to pre-position heavy weaponry in six Eastern European countries, including Lithuania. They will include 90 Abrams tanks, 140 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and 20 howitzers.

Air Lituanica to file for bankruptcy in court

Air Lituanica, an already defunct airline established by the city of Vilnius, will try to open bankruptcy proceedings in court. On Thursday, June 25, the company’s creditors voted against an out-of-court bankruptcy process, the airline said in a press release. That proposal was rejected by one creditor – Vilniaus Šilumos Tinklai (Vilnius Heating Grids), a municipal company that holds 27.78 percent of creditor votes. The out-of-court bankruptcy process needed the approval by three quarters of creditors to go ahead. The airline, which is majority-owned by Vilnius local authority, said in a statement on May 22 that it was ceasing operations. A week later, it announced plans to file for bankruptcy. Air Lituanica last year suffered a loss of around 10 million euro, up from a loss of 5 million euro recorded in 2012-2013.

Alcohol found in blood of An-2 pilot

Alcohol has been found in the blood of Adolfas Mačiulis, one of the pilots of the An-2 plane that crashed flying over the Baltic Sea in mid May.

Prosecutor Simonas Minkevičius of Klaipėda Regional Prosecutor’s Office, carrying out an investigation into the crash, told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency, on Thursday, June 25, that experts found 0.77 permille of alcohol in Mačiulis’ blood.

«Additional tests are being carried out and information is being verified. But these are the initial results,» he said, refusing to elaborate.

Experts concluded previously that Mačiulis died by drowning. The An-2 with two highly experienced pilots went missing on May 16 en route from the Swedish port of Gothenburg to the Lithuanian port city of Klaipėda. Three days later, it was discovered on the Baltic seafloor. An examination two days later revealed a body of one of the pilots inside the aircraft. It was recovered on Friday. The body of the second pilot was not found inside the plane.

NATO secretary general weighs in on Baltic brigade plea

NATO has made major contribution to ensuring security for Eastern Europe and the Alliance will continue assessing allies’ requests and do everything to protect then, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says.

He underlined at a press conference in Brussels that NATO has boosted its Baltic air policing mission when implementing the decisions made at the Wales summit last year, and the number of training events in Eastern Europe is also growing and rotating allied forces are being deployed. NATO headquarters will be set up in six Eastern European countries, including Lithuania, Stoltenverg pointed out in response to a BNS question as to whether NATO was looking into the request of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian defence chiefs to deploy a brigade in the Baltic States.

Several weeks ago, the chiefs of defence of the three Baltic States had asked NATO for a brigade to be deployed in the region, so that a battalion could be based in each country. A NATO brigade usually consists of 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers.

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