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Friday 22.09.2017 | Name days: Maigurs, Mārica, Māris
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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania to start paying child money in 2018

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Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that the government will follow up on its plan to next year start paying a monthly benefit for each child regardless of their parents’ income, but adds that the state cannot afford to pay more than 30 to 50 euros in so-called «child money».

«There will be child money starting in 2018, but we have to be realistic about what the state can afford. There is no final decision yet, because we are looking for sources. Today we can speak about an amount of 30-50 euros per child,» Skvernelis said in a radio interview on Thursday, May 18.

Currently, families with one or two children are eligible for child benefit if their monthly income per member does not exceed 153 euros. Such families receive 28.5 euros monthly if their child is under two years old and 15.2 euros if their child is aged between 2 and 18 years.

Cigarette packet with explosive thrown in Belarusian Embassy’s territory

A packet of cigarettes containing an explosive device was thrown into the territory of the Belarusian Embassy in central Vilnius on Thursday evening, May 18, local authorities said. The explosive, which the police suspect was a firecracker, exploded at 8:26 p.m. on Thursday evening, the Police Department said.

No injuries or damages have been reported.

Paulius Radvilavičius of the Vilnius police said the incident was reported by the embassy’s employee. The police opened a probe into violation of public peace.

Some 93 mn euro spent on administration of bankrupt Snoras

Almost 93 million euros has been spent on the administration of Snoras, a Lithuanian commercial bank that went bankrupt in late 2011 and is now is being liquidated, not including payments to creditors.

Snoras’ total expenses during the bankruptcy administration period between December 2011 and the end of 2016 amounted to 92.984 million euros, of which 54.901 million euros was paid to consultants and the bankruptcy administrator, Snoras said in its latest report to creditors.

Operational payments amounted to 38.083 million euros during the period, including 20.727 million euros in personnel-related expenses. Snoras’ payments to creditors totalled 811.446 million euros in late 2016, of which 808.722 million euros went to the state-owned Deposit Insurance Fund. The bank’s income during the administration period totalled 925.199 million euros, including 501.694 million euros in loan-related income and 217.67 million euros in recovered funds from financial institutions.

Ministry urges EU to step up capacities against hybrid threats

Enhancement of European capacities against cyber threats has to be among top priorities of the community, Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said at a meeting of the EU Defence ministers in Brussels.

According to the press release, Karoblis emphasized the need to identify the source of cyber threats and hostile propaganda with great precision and to then proceed very purposefully, adding that it was «impossible to counter hybrid threats without having identified their source.»

Competition watchdog to look into Rimi request to buy another grocery chain

The Lithuanian Competition Council will examine the application from Rimi Lietuva, operator of a retail chain owned by Sweden’s ICA Gruppen, to purchase Iki, a Lithuanian grocery chain that ranks second in terms of the number of stores.

On Thursday, May 18, the competition watchdog received Rimi Lietuva’s application for acquisition of a 100-percent stake in Iki’s owner Palink, which is sold by Germany’s Rewe Group and other shareholders for 213 million euros.The European Commission had forwarded ICA  Gruppen ‘s application for clearance of the merger to the Lithuanian authority in mid-April.

The council now has four months to examine the application. Should the merger restrict competition, the parties in the deal would have to offer measures to eliminate this. There is speculation in the market that some Rimi or Iki stores in Lithuania may be sold to other buyers before the deal is closed. Iki operates 232 stores, while Rimi operates 54.

US special operations chief to observe exercise

General Raymond Thomas, commander of the United States Special Operations Command, visited Lithuania on Friday, May 19, and met with Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis and observed later an exercise in Pabradė, central Lithuania. US troops were also taking part in the training. Deployment of US special operators in the Baltic Sea region was confirmed by Lithuanian officials early in 2017.

Polish airmen scrambled over Russian warplane

Polish fighter-jets serving in the NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic States were for the first time  on May 15scrambled over a Russian warplane flying above the Baltic Sea. Poland’s four F-16 are stationed in an air base in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania. Captain Tomas Pakalniškis, spokesman for the army’s Joint Staff, said two of them took off earlier this week to identify and intercept a Russian reconnaissance aircraft Il-20 above the Baltic Sea. Pakalniškis said the Russian warplane had its automatic onboard transponder off while flying in the international airspace. NATO launched its air-policing mission in the Baltic States immediately after Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the Alliance in 2004.

Lithuanian court wants more info on fraud suspect

A Vilnius court told the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office to ask the United States for additional information about Evaldas Rimašauskas, a Lithuanian national who is wanted in America on large-scale fraud charges.The Vilnius Regional Court, whose decision is not subject to appeal, gave the prosecutors two months to supply it with additional information. The detainee’s lawyer Linas Kuprusevičius has said that the US extradition request did not contain all data required by Lithuanian laws or specify the origin of the money and the amount that he attempted to steal and the sums he actually stole. In his words, this makes it difficult to defend yourself when you don’t know what you’re charged with.

The business magazine Fortune has reported recently that Google and Facebook have confirmed that they fell victim to an alleged 100-million-dollar scam orchestrated by a Lithuanian citizen.

Rimašauskas was detained in mid-March and the US request for the man’s extradition reached Lithuania around a month later. Prosecutors want Rimašauskas, 48, extradited under an international extradition treaty with the United States.

FCIS opens probe into US real estate of ex-president’s widow

Lithuania’s Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) has launched a pre-trial investigation regarding real estate owned by former President Algirdas Brazauskas’ widow Kristina Brazauskienė and her family members in the United States. The probe is into the origin of the money used to acquire the properties and into suspicions of fraudulent bookkeeping by the Hotel «Draugystė» in Vilnius, which is owned by Brazauskienė and her son.

Lithuania too slow to absorb EU aid

Lithuania has been too slow to absorb EU aid for the 2014-2020 financing period, which may decelerate economic and wage growth and result in losing a part of European support, the Finance Ministry has warned.

In its report on the implementation of the 2014-2020 action program and funding reallocation, the ministry says that a mere 13 percent of EU funding allocated to Lithuania has been disbursed since 2014. In the first quarter of 2017, the country used just 48 million euros, or 4.8 percent of the amount planned for the year.

According to the ministry, 2.14 billion euros worth of EU-funded contracts are planned to be concluded this year, about 20 percent lower than the amount planned at the start of the year. The optimal use of EU funds per year is 1 billion euros.

Russian oppositionists gather in Vilnius

More than 100 politicians, civil society activists, academicians and journalists from various countries attended the fourth Vilnius Russia Forum, a two-day event in the Lithuanian capital on Thursday, May 18.

The forum has been held annually since 2013 to discuss Russia’s domestic and foreign policy issues, the human rights situation and the country’s relations with the West, as well as Russia’s development trends, its economic situation, the fight against Russian propaganda and other relevant issues, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.

This year’s event will focus on popular moods in Russia and potential changes in these moods ahead of the country’s 2018 presidential election, as well as other processes concerning the election, it said.

Participants of the Vilnius Russia Forum included the Kremlin’s critics Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Kara-Murza, as well as Mikhail Kasyanov and Ilya Yashin, the leaders of the People’s Freedom Party, or PARNAS, and Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered two years ago.

Chechnya‘s gays find refuge in Lithuania

Gay men fleeing persecution in Chechnya have found refuge in Lithuania: Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius confirmed on Wednesday, May 17, that two persons who suffered repression in the southern Russian republic have come to Lithuania. Linkevičius gave no further details about the circumstances of the arrival of the people. He said that Lithuania was one of the first EU to take in persecuted gays and that it coordinates its actions with its Western allies.

Concert protests against planned alcohol restrictions

Several hundred people gathered outside the parliament building in Vilnius on Tuesday, May 16, to watch a show staged to protest against the ruling coalition’s plans to restrict alcohol consumption at concerts and other mass events. The protest concert named «Freedom to Rock ‘n’ Roll» was organised by the organisers of the country’s most famous festivals and musicians.

People held banners that read «Wine: 13 percent alcohol and 87 per cent culture», «You won’t ban the wine culture spanning 8,000 years» or «No to prohibition». As politicians are discussing amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control, event organizers fear that the planned restrictions will cause festivals to close down or move abroad.

Emigration rate remains higher than last year

Statistics show that Lithuania’s official emigration rate did not slow down in April and remained higher than in the same period last year. As many as 4,643 people emigrated from the country last month, 37 people more than in March and 920 more than a year ago. Some 1,790 people immigrated to Lithuania in April, 20 fewer than in March. Lithuania last year lost around 30,000 people due to emigration to Western Europe and the pace of declared emigration quickened further at the start of this year as around 7,000 people reported their emigration in January and February each.

Truck carrying 676 kg of hashish busted

Lithuanian customs officials have detained a truck en route from Spain, carrying 676 kg of hashish, the Customs Criminal Service said, noting this was the largest drugs shipment busted in the country this year. The narcotic substances are estimated at about 6.7 million euros.The truck was pulled over in early hours of last Friday, May 12, close to Lithuania’s border with Poland. A check revealed the drugs in the front wall of the semi-trailer. The driver, a Kaunas resident, has been detained for two months and faces up to 15 years in prison for drugs smuggling.

Over a thousand of troops to train in Kaunas

Troops of the communications battalion of the Jaegers’ Battalion of Vytautas the Great based in Kaunas, Lithuania, are readying for a military exercise, with over 1,000 NATO communications officers planned to train in Kaunas in the framework of the Steadfast Cobalt exercise. Major General Walter Huhn, deputy chief of staff CIS and cyber defence at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), said the exercise was intended to teach NATO communications officers to work with the Alliance’s response forces.

In his words, the exercise is intended to prepare communications networks for NATO’s response force in 2018.

Cyber attacks may have targeted about 100 domains

The WannaCry cyber attack that has been targeting users worldwide since last Friday, May 12, may have harmed over 100 domains in Lithuania, according to preliminary figures. According to Rytis Rainys, director of the RRT Networks and Information Security Department, the list of infected domains does not include any objects of state importance or other crucial systems. WannaCry has affected over 150,000 computers worldwide. During an attack, the ransomware encrypts user files, and the organizers demand their victims to pay a ransom in virtual currency bitcoin for recovering access to the information.

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