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Sunday 28.05.2017 | Name days: Vilhelms, Vilis
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Week in Lithuania. Imports from Belarus' Astravyets NPP restricted

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Seimas on Thursday, April 20, adopted a bill to restrict electricity imports from the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus and other unsafe nuclear facilities in third countries.

The Seimas passed the Law on the Necessary Measures of Protection against Threats Posed by Unsafe Nuclear Power Plants of Third Countries with 87 votes in favour and one abstention. Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas has said earlier that the Astravyets plant and Kaliningrad’s nuclear facility project, which is currently on hold, represent a threat to Lithuania and violate the Convention on Nuclear Safety, which requires coordinating the selection of nuclear sites with neighbouring countries and assessing their impact and potential damage to their people, nature and urban environments.

Liberal Movement’s activities illegally financed

MP Gintaras Steponavičius of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement met with MG Baltic Vice-president Raimondas Kurlianskis to discuss illegal financing for his party and voted in favour of legislation benefiting the business group’s interests, thus undermining the authority of the Seimas and disgracing the name of a lawmaker, the country’s prosecutor general , Evaldas Pašilis, said on Tuesday, April 18, as he asked the parliament to strip the parliamentarian of his legal immunity over a possible abuse of powers. On Thursday, April 20, the Seimas adopted a resolution to allow legal proceedings against Steponavičius. It was supported by 109 of Lithuania’s 141 parliamentarians, with no votes against or abstentions. The resolution required 71 votes in support.

Town of Kėdainiai to erect monument to Vilna Gaon

The central Lithuanian town of Kėdainiai has decided to erect a monument to Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, the philosopher, scholar and Jewish religious leader known as the Vilna Gaon. The monument will be funded by local business people and will stand in the Old Town of Kėdainiai, where then Vilna Gaon, back then a teenage Jewish boy, was taught by the local rabbi, The statue of the young Elijah will be created by sculptor Romualdas Kvintas, whose projects include a monument to Zemach Shabad (1864-1935), a renowned Jewish doctor, social activist and humanist, in Vilnius.

Seimas opens debates on Magnitsky Act

Lithuania’s parliament has opened debates of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which would ban entry to foreigners linked with large-scale corruption, money laundering or human rights violations. Proposed by a group of MPs, the bill was supported for discussion by 87 parliamentarians, with ten abstentions. It will now be discussed by parliamentary committees. Plenary hearings are scheduled for June 15. The MPs suggest amending the provision of the Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners with a clause that foreigners would be banned from coming to the Republic of Lithuania for more than five years, if he can constitute a threat to state security or public peace. According to the bill, persons would be blacklisted on grounds of information or reasonable causes to think that the foreigner is linked with large-scale corruption, money laundering or violation of human rights, which led to death or major injuries, ungrounded conviction for political reasons or suffered other serious negative consequences.

Police opens probe into hacking of news agency system

Lithuania’s Criminal Police has opened a pre-trial investigation into hacking of the system of Vilnius bureau of BNS news agency and publishing of fake news. The launch of the investigation into unlawful login to the information system was reported by the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau after hearing a plea from the news agency. The fake news titled The Echo of Syria in Latvia: US Troops Poisoned with Yperite was published on the agency’s system on Wednesday afternoon in the Lithuanian and Russian languages.

President dislikes tripartite deal on pay rise

President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that a trilateral pay rise agreement between the government, employers and trade unions is a good intention that cannot be put into practice as the state cannot force privately-owned businesses to commit themselves to raising wages. The president says that all employee protection mechanisms should be reflected in the new Labour Code and that agreements reached in the Tripartite Council are significant.

Health Ministry favours decriminalization of cannabis use

Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga does not support the legalization of cannabis, but he backs a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and subject such persons to administrative liability instead. According to the minister, it is important to understand that cannabis is addictive and affects certain cognitive functions and one’s emotional intellect, and causes behavioural problems. Cannabis legalization supporters staged a rally outside the parliament building in Vilnius on Thursday, April 20, to demand, in the first place, decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of the drug.

Court decides to turn to Constitutional Court over chief vet sacking

The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court decided on Thursday, April 20, to ask for the Constitutional Court’s opinion on whether Jonas Milius was lawfully dismissed as director of the State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS). The government fired Milius in early October 2016. Government officials then said that the director had been sacked due to his activity report not having been approved. Milius maintains, however, that the government did not even discuss the report, attributing his dismissal to political motives.

Paluckas, Sinkevicius compete in LSDP leader run-off

Vilnius Vice-Mayor Gintautas Paluckas and Lithuanian Economy Minister Mindaugas Sinkevičius are facing each other in a run-off election for the post of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) leader as voting started on Thursday, April 20. Some 9,723 members, or almost 48 percent, turned out for the first round of the election two weeks ago. Paluckas received 41 percent of votes, the most among the five candidates who ran in the first round, had a lead of over 300 votes over Sinkevičius, who came in second with 37 percent. The results will be known by Saturday night. The new chairman will take up the post on May 6.

Lithuania to verify Nord Stream 2 environmental impact assessment

Lithuania will verify whether the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Europe will have no adverse environmental impact on its territorial waters and economic zone in the Baltic Sea as stated in the project’s environmental impact assessment, a Lithuanian official said, adding that Lithuania has doubts about the economic feasibility of the project. Russia’s Gazprom expects to start implementing the Nord Stream 2 project, which is estimated to cost nearly 10 billion euros, in April 2018 jointly with Western European energy giants. Denmark and other countries are opposed to the project. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has said that the planned new gas pipeline is not a commercial project, but a geopolitical one aimed at harming Ukraine.

Drill scenario went wrong way

The scenario of a recent exercise organized by the Lithuanian Interior Ministry did not envisage the use of training weapons and the proclamation of «the People’s Republic of Šalcininkai», Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas said on Wednesday, April 19. The committee’s members criticized the minister for not informing police in Šalčininkai, in the eastern part of the country, and border guards about the drill beforehand.

According to Misiūnas, the heads of institutions subordinate to the Interior Ministry decided to conduct the unannounced exercise in order to test in real conditions how services would respond to such an emergency.

The Interior Ministry’s exercise on Apr. 11 was aimed at training services to react to uniformed troops without insignia. The scenario reminded one of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, which involved the so-called «little green men», Russian troops wearing no insignia.

Construction of Modern Art Centre begins in Vilnius

The construction of the Modern Art Centre in place of the demolished Lietuva Cinema in Vilnius formally got underway on Wednesday, April 19. Viktoras Butkus, the initiator of the project, says that he plans to donate the 15-million-euro centre to the state or to the city once it is launched. According to Butkus, the new museum will display a collection featuring Lithuanian modern from the 1960s up to the present day.

He estimates that the total value of the project may reach around 15 million euros, including the art collection valued at 4 million euros.

Commissioner urges Lithuania to ratify Istanbul Convention

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, urged Lithuania on Wednesday, April 19, to ratify the so-called Istanbul Convention against violence against women. According to the commissioner, Lithuania could work with experts monitoring the implementation of the convention and use good practices of other nations to improve its system for combating domestic violence. Critics say that convention offers an unacceptable definition of social gender. The government promises to initiate discussions, but says nothing about what decisions could be made. Muiznieks rejected criticism of these concepts posing a threat to traditional family values.

Seimas speaker favours rejecting president’s veto

Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, thinks that the Lithuanian parliament should overturn the president’s veto regarding in-house purchases in municipalities as such a ban would affect local enterprises.

Pranckietis believes that direct measures should be taken to combat corruption in municipalities. The speaker thinks that the Seimas is likely to override the presidential veto.

Lithuanian firm wants to revive shuttle container train

Lithuania’s VPA Logistics, the operator of the shuttle container train service Saulė (Sun) between Europe and Asia, is trying to revive the stalling project. The Mercury shuttle train service, which ran between Moscow and Klaipėda, has been cancelled. The project is operated by Lithuania’s freight transportation and forwarding group Arijus.

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