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Author: AFP/SCANPIXThe Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) has appointed Deputy Culture Minister Agneta Lobačevskytė as the head of the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson.

The candidate was proposed by the Seimas’ Chairwoman Loreta Graužinienė. As many as 61 MPs supported the candidacy in the voting, with 32 MPs voting against with 12 abstentions. Some of the Lithuanian lawmakers praised Lobačevskyte for her professionalism, being a young, promising and career woman, while others insisted in the debates she lacked experience and authority.

Parliament has also appointed Edita Žiobienė for her second term of office as Ombudsperson for Children’s Rights. During a secret vote on Thursday, June 18, Žiobienė was supported by 86 MPs, 16 MPs were against with four abstentions.

Lithuania opens second Honorary Consulate in Georgia

Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs Minister Linas Linkevičius and his counterpart of Georgia, Tamar Beruchashvili, opened a Honorary Consulate of Lithuania. It will be headed by Georgian businessman, Honorary Consul Temur Ustiashvili with jurisdiction over Adjara, Guria and Megrelia.

«Representatives of various Lithuanian institutions and businesses take a great interest in and visit western Georgia; there is also a continuing trend of growing number of tourists. We hope that the opening of the Lithuanian diplomatic mission in Batumi will also contribute to the strengthening of the close economic cooperation between our two countries, to the establishing of new contacts between cities and communities, and that more Georgian citizens will become interested in Lithuania and come to visit our country,» said Linkevičius. The first Honorary Consulate of Lithuania in Georgia was opened in 2010 in Tbilisi. It is headed by Boris Gamrekeli.

US-born analyst: Putin will not risk nuclear war

Weighing in on American media reports that the United States was planning to deploy heavy weaponry in Eastern Europe and the Baltics, including Lithuania, Kęstutis Girnius, a US-born political analyst, told Laisvoji Banga, a Lithuanian radio TV station, that this will certainly raise tensions.

«We’ve already heard reactions from the Russians who said this was the most dangerous step since the end of the Cold War. They started talking about deploying additional forces: artillery, aviation. Iskander missiles were said to be quickly moved and positioned in the Kaliningrad Region, perhaps even loaded with tactical nuclear weapons. There have been unequivocal statements about changes in the Russian forces stationed in Belarus. I will be interested to see how (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko will take these novelties: will he resist or not?..There will definitely be more tension, no reason to kid ourselves about that. On the other hand, one must note that it was Russia that provoked these actions. Not only with its policies in Ukraine, but also with its aircrafts (violating the NATO air space defence) and rather aggressive moves of its armed forces, aimed at demonstrating to the world its power and comeback. NATO is reacting rather than acting. But during his visit in Italy last week, Vladimir Putin said that it was Russia that’s reacting. He said that the United States had a military budget in excess of those of all other countries combined. NATO military budget is ten times what the Russian Federation spends on defence. It was NATO, Putin said, that was expanding and encroaching on Russia’s borders, not vice versa. He said that the Russians were only reacting to America’s actions. It is true that America spends twice or five times more on defence than anyone else, I will not argue with that. America is rearming – and always more intensely than other countries, even though China and Russia are currently stepping up their rearmament, too. On the other hand, Russia has always been very negative about NATO’s expansion, insisting that as long as NATO expands, there is greater likelihood that enemy forces will be deployed close to the Russian border. Historically, Russia has always defended itself by retreating inside itself. So the closer NATO forces are to Russia, the more uneasy it feels,» said Girnius, noting that the Russian President «will not risk nuclear war».

Saber Strike 2015 demo operation performed in Lithuania

A demo military operation was executed in the Gaižiūnai training ground, central Lithuania, on Thursday, June 18, in the framework of NATO’s Saber Strike 2015 exercise, observed by Lithuania’s president and generals of NATO countries.

«It is a very important exercise – development of the implementation of the Wales agreement, we see that the NATO partners are meeting their commitments, we are also (meeting) our commitments, we are boosting our defence capacities and our abilities, qualifications and possibilities to cooperate with and work with armies of our partners. The interaction is successful, we have been equal partners for years and I can only applaud that Lithuania is becoming a serious partner rather than a stretched out hand amid the accelerating quality of our armament, emergence of new equipment and new weapons,» Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė told journalists in Gaižiūnai.

During the event, the guests were introduced to the military equipment and weaponry used by Lithuanian and Allied troops in the exercise, as well as the results of the training.

Lithuania launches website for expatriates

A special website – www.renkuosilietuva.lt – for expatriates launched in Lithuania, will provide all necessary information about the country and its municipalities «at any time of the day,» Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius says.

The Lithuanian prime minister says the initiative is necessary as state institutions are receiving a growing number of inquiries from expatriates about possibilities to get employment in Lithuania, start a business, receive education, etc.

«Our goal was to create conditions for a person, who just had a thought about Lithuania, to be able to receive all information at any time of the day on things they want, including employment and business opportunities in any municipality, ways to receive assistance for starting a business, house and land prices, education, distances to medical establishments, military service, citizenship and many other issues,» the prime minister said during the presentation of the website on Tuesday, June 16.

Prosecutor seeks 6-year imprisonment for Labour Party’s Honorary Chairman

Prosecutor Saulius Verseckas from the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office said at the Court of Appeals on Thursday, June 18, that the Labour Party’s founder and, now, an euro-parliamentarian Viktor Uspaskich should be sentenced to six years, while MP Vytautas Gapšys and Marina Liutkevičienė should receive respective conditional sentences of 18 months and one year.

The prosecutor also suggested that the Labour Party should be imposed a fine of about 376,000 euros. The history dates back to July 2013, when a Vilnius court sentenced Uspaskich to four years in prison for shady bookkeeping, while MP Vitalija Vonžutaitė was sentenced to three years.

MP Vytautas Gapšys was imposed a fine of over 10,000 euros and the party’s former bookkeeper Marina Liutkevičienė received a sentence of one year in prison. Charges against the Labour Party as a legal entity were dropped after it merged with a sister party, effectively forming a new entity. An appeal against the verdict was filed with the Court of Appeals, and the ruling will not take effect until the Court of Appeals hands down its verdict in the case.

More Lithuanian citizens being recruited by foreign secret services

Attempts to recruit Lithuanian citizens by foreign secret services, as well as cyber spying incidents, are intensifying, Darius Jauniškis, director general of Lithuania’s State Security Department (VSD), says.

«We are dealing with a growing number of attempts to recruit our citizens, and very often targets include people going to Russia or Belarus who, roughly speaking, are even terrorized on the border in some cases. Cyber spying is also intensifying very much,» Jauniškis said during a discussion on national security issues, taking place in the Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, June 18.

He also asked lawmakers to allot more funding for intelligence institutions. «As a former military man, I can say that it’s very important to arm ourselves but as any army, any person without eyes and knowledge would be helpless, and intelligence institutions are the ones which can see and predict the enemy’s actions and help the country to better prepare for state defence… I would like you to pay more attention and support increasing funding to intelligence institutions,» Jauniškis said.

The Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence has also been calling for giving more funds to the VSD which is set to receive 23.6 million euro this year, just as it did last year.

Seimas committee chair stands for indefinite conscription return

Artūras Paulauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence, has proposed discussing the possibility to restore conscription for an indefinite period of time.

Speaking at a discussion in the Seimas on national security issues, Paulauskas expressed his opinion that the existing political decision to restore conscription for five years was insufficient.

«Conscription helps to address the army reserve problem…That determination should remain and, I think, for more than five years. Let’s discuss whether we need conscripts only for five years. As chairman of this committee, I can say that we need more time, and probably even an indefinite period,» Paulauskas said.

Lithuania plans to conscript 3,000 men this year.

Lithuania to spend 1.46 percent of GDP on defence next year

Lithuania plans to spend 1.46 percent of its GDP on defence next year, the country’s Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas says.

Such a share is stipulated in the 2016 budget bill the initial version of which is currently being deliberated by the government, the minister said during a discussion on security issues in the parliament on Thursday, June 18.

«We made the commitment in the political parties’ agreement to increase defence spending to 2 percent by 2020. I am glad that this part of the agreement is being implemented. We had 0.77 percent GDP in 2013 and plan to increase it to 1.46 percent GDP based on the initial version of the budget bill which is now being discussed by the Cabinet. So it’s double what we had in 2013,» Olekas said.

Sculptures in Vilnius will «talk»

A cultural-educational project dubbed «Talking Statues of Vilnius» will be launched in Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius Square in central Vilnius.

It’s an interactive project that will give Vilnius residents and guest the opportunity to «receive calls» to their smartphones from Vilnius Downtown statues which will speak Lithuanian and English and several of them will speak Ukrainian, French and Yiddish, Vilnius Municipality said on Thursday, June 18.

Every sculpture will have its distinctive voice «borrowed» from famous Lithuanian artists, singers, actors and other well-known personalities. The texts for the sculpture have also been written by famous Lithuanian people. A similar idea has already been implemented in London, Manchester and Copenhagen.

Lithuanian President: Midsummer festival symbolizes bond between Baltic and Nordic peoples

President Dalia Grybauskaitė took part in the Nordic Baltic Midsummer celebration at the Vilnius University Botanical Garden in Kairėnai – a traditional calendar festival observed together by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway for the third consecutive year.

«The Nordic and Baltic countries are an excellent example of strong regional cooperation. We are bound by common values, traditions, culture. The Midsummer festival – known as Joninės in Lithuania – is the best proof of this. It has become a much-awaited community event, highlighting the strong bond between our nations,» the President said.
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