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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian Parliament speaker, security chief uneasy over TV3 channel sale

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuania‘s Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis and State Security Department chief Darius Jauniškis have discussed the possible plans of the Swedish media concern Modern Times Group (MTG) to sell its business in the Baltic states, including the TV3 television group.

«In the media field, we are alarmed by the sale of TV3. This may be an early concern. As soon as there were media reports about the plans to sell it, of course, we started thinking about the potential buyers. We spoke about who could be the future owner,» the parliament’s leader told journalists. In his words, ownership may have an impact on the content of the TV channel. Jauniškis, the security chief, also said that the future TV3 handover was alarming.

Lithuania will not extradite Georgia‘s  former anti-terrorism centre chief

Lithuanian prosecutors said on Tuesday, January 3, they refused to extradite Zurab Maisuradze, former head of Georgia‘s anti-terrorism center, to Russia, as Moscow wants him for political reasons.

«The plea for extradition of Z.M. for criminal prosecution was submitted for political reasons and the Russian Federation’s foreign policies towards Georgia,» the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a press release.

The finding is yet to be approved by a Vilnius court. Maisuradze  was apprehended by Lithuanian border guards at Vilnius Airport on Dec. 2 after a regular document check of non-European Union citizens showed he was wanted internationally due to suspicions of a crime linked with terrorism. His search was called by Russia. A few days later, Maisuradze was released on a bail until the plea for his extradition to Russia has been processed. The Georgian citizen had come to the Lithuanian capital for an event at the invitation from the Lithuanian section of the International Police Association.

Two Lithuanian Universities set to merge by 2018

Lithuania‘s Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) and the Lithuanian University of Education Sciences (LEU) expect to merge by the end of 2017, representatives of both universities said after meeting with Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis on Thursday, January 5. LEU board chairman Henrikas Juškevičius said the merger details would be finalized before the admissions for the 2017 fall semester.

Lithuania‘s ex-president Valdas Adamkus, the chairman of the VDU council, said that the merger would help improve the preparation of teachers. Meanwhile, Pranckietis said that the universities had requested some financial assistance for the merger procedures, adding that the parliament could earmark the money as the founder of the institutions.

Ex- Russia ambassador: Lithuania can cooperate with Russia

Even amid the complex relations with Russia, Lithuania can still cooperate in fields of culture, medicine and tourism, says the country‘s former ambassador to Moscow, MP Antanas Vinkus. He discussed possible contacts with the neighbouring country with Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis on Thursday, January 5. «We spoke about what fields we could achieve the most. The professor presented his vision that the fields include culture and medicine, as well as long-standing personal contacts. These are the operations we see we can cooperate with the great nation,» the parliamentary speaker told journalists.

Health Ministry plans to regulate home births

Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Wednesday, January 4, that he will appoint a working group to draw up legislation to regulate home births. The minister described as inappropriate the practice of prosecuting people for helping women to give birth at home.

«I think that the practice of prosecuting people who helped those babies to be born at home is not a proper way of solving the problem. All the more as because this phenomenon exists de facto: people give birth at home,» he told reporters.

Road death toll at lowest level in over 50 years

Some 189 people were killed on Lithuania‘s roads in 2016, the lowest number since at least 1952, the Transport Ministry said on Thursday, January 5. It attributed the result to the development of road infrastructure, the implementation of traffic safety measures, tightened control of traffic rule violators and active education campaigns. Some 241 people died in traffic accidents in the country in 2015.

Ruling party mulls revising parliamentary agreement on defence

The Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU) is considering revising an agreement on the country‘s foreign, security and defence policy guidelines that was signed by parliamentary parties almost three years ago, the daily Lietuvos Žinios reported on Thursday, January 5. Ramūnas Karbauskis, the ruling party‘s chairman, says that the agreement should underline the commitment of parliamentary parties to meet NATO‘s 2 per cent of GDP target for defence spending as soon as in 2018.The lawmaker thinks that his initiative to introduce mandatory military education at schools and universities should be also reflected in the document.

Diplomat appointed to deal with Belarus N-plant issues

The Lithuanian Finance Ministry on Wednesday, January 4, appointed Darius Degutis, a diplomat, as ambassador-at-large for issues involving the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant under construction in Belarus, just 50 kilometres from Vilnius. The post has been set up in an effort to better coordinate the positions and actions of different Lithuanian authorities at both the national and international levels with regard to the project that is being developed in the neighbouring country, the ministry said. The ambassador will, among other things, present Lithuania’s position and will try to rally international support.

PM backs decision to probe tax chief‘s activities

Dainoras Bradauskas, the head of the Lithuanian State Tax Inspectorate, may have committed disciplinary misconduct, the Special Investigation Service (STT) said on Wednesday, January 4. Based on the STT information, the Finance Ministry has launched an investigation into official misconduct. Saulius Urbanavičius, director of the law-enforcement body, did not elaborate on what activities had aroused suspicion. The STT usually investigates corruption offenses. The Finance Ministry said that Bradauskas would be suspended from his duties for the period of the investigation.

PM Saulius Skvernelis has said he supported Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka‘s decision to investigate the activities of Dainoras Bradauskas, the head of the State Tax Inspectorate (VMI).

First DUI in 2017 goes to court under stricter law

A 26-year-old man caught drunk-driving on the New Year‘s night faces criminal liability under Lithuania‘s tightened regulations, the Prosecutor General‘s Office said on Wednesday, January 4. The man, who lives in the district of Pasvalys, in northern Lithuania, was the first person in the country to be pulled over by the police for drunk-driving after the amendments criminalizing driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of over 1.5 per mill came into force on Jan. 1. The Panevėžys District Prosecutor‘s Office has asked a court to punish the driver under the criminal law. Under the amendments to the Criminal Code, the offense is punishable by fines amounting to several thousand euros, arrest or imprisonment and the withdrawal of the driving license for up to ten years.

President wants tighter punishment for tax evasion

President Dalia Grybauskaitė submitted on Wednesday, January 4, amendments to the Penal Code, suggesting tighter punishments for large-scale tax evasion. The President’s Office said the amendments had been drafted in light of the legal gaps that were highlighted by the Labor Party’s bookkeeping fraud trial that lasted a decade. The Labour Party‘s founder Viktor Uspaskich and other suspects were last year fined for bookkeeping fraud. A number of courts overruled prosecutors’ pleas to put Uspaskich behind bars.

Defence minister hopes all recruits to join voluntarily in 2016

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis hopes that all recruits will join the country‘s Armed Forces voluntarily this year. «It is already a tradition that we did not have to refer to the lists of recruits until now. Up until now, all the slots of recruits were filled with volunteers,»Karoblis told Vilnius journalists on Wednesday after compilation of the recruiting lists at the Defence Ministry. Compiled by computer software, the lists include over 25,000 young men born in the 1991-1997 period who, according to data available to the Defence Ministry, have not been exempted from military service or had it postponed. The lists should be published next week at the latest. This year, more than 3,500 persons liable to military service will be recruited in Lithuania.

Lithuania confirms deployment of US special operators

After the Russian actions changed the security situation in Lithuania for the worse, troops of the United States‘ Special Operations Forces were stationed in Lithuania, the Defence Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, January 3.

«Presence of troops of the US Special Operations Forces in Lithuania is one of the measures of deterrence and a form of long-term cooperation with the US forces. After arriving in the region at our invitation, they will stay as long as the regional security situation requires,» Asta Galdikaitė, spokeswoman for the ministry, said. Arrival of the US special operators in the Baltic States was on Sunday reported by US daily, The New York Times, which said that a few dozen of troops had arrived in the past few months.

Lithuanian Railways to check firms participating in tenders

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG), the state railway company, will from now on screen companies taking part in its tenders. The decision to check all companies based outside the European Union (EU) and NATO was taken by the company‘s new leadership after Lithuanian media reported that a shareholder of the company‘s partners, Russia‘s Transmashholding, was also the operator of the Russian military industry concern Kalashnikov.

Lithuania plans to disclose all KGB agents in 2017

The Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Centre intends to finish publishing names of recruits by the Soviet KGB in 2017. «We should be done by June of this year. The materials are specific – we must have a person authorized to work with classified information, and replacing one with another is not an easy thing to do,» the centre’s director Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė said. The initial plan was to publish the final 500 names by the end of 2016, however, in the director‘s words, the plans were revised by the fact that the person in charge of the task was busy with his doctoral thesis, however, the publishing work should now be intensified.

Attempts to track unsafe Internet devices surge

The number of attempts to find devices with unsafe Internet access with the aim of using them for cyber-attacks has risen five times in Lithuania in 2016, reported the National Cyber Security Centre. In case of tracking down such devices, they may be broken into and used for creation of the so-called botnet network for remote control of other computers and, consequently, cyber-attacks.

Lithuanian businesses get loans from Russian banks

Lithuania is in the zone of influence of Scandinavian banks, however, Russian banks also have low-key operations in the country and hand out loans to Lithuanian businesses, which Scandinavian-operated local banks are not extremely happy about and warn about risks, Verslo Žinios daily has reported. The central Bank of Lithuania has also advised to be cautious with Russian banks. According to the daily, one of the most recent examples of Russian banks‘ operations in Lithuania – a 40-million-euro loan from the Russian state bank, Sberbank, to Baltic Champs Group controlled by Lithuanian businessman Kęstutis Jusčius. Jusčius has not confirmed the report.

Polish scientist named honorary of Lithuanian Palanga resort

Polish scientist Malgorzata Omilanowska, the country‘s former culture minister, has been named honorary citizen of Lithuania‘s seaside resort of Palanga. The honorary citizenship is in recognition of the researcher of the history of Palanga for her special merits to the city of Palanga and promotion of its name in Lithuania and abroad, as well as research and cultural work. According to the communiqué, the step was taken to honour the scientist and thank her for her monograph about Palanga in the era of Tyszkiewicz, which was published in 2011.


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BNN summary of the week: final report on Oligarchs case and ordered attacks on e-health

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Fight; Attack; Growth; Decline; Opinion; and Study.

Economist: the most important reform has to happen in people’s heads

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Minister promises bigger wages for working people and support for country’s industry

«Latvian Economy Ministry’s priorities for 2018 include increasing wages for working people and providing support to the country’s industry. For Latvia’s centenary year, every resident should have the right to experience the increase of the personal and state welfare,» promises Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Latvenergo: electricity price has declined 30% in the past three years

Average electricity price in Latvia has declined in recent years. The average price of electricity has declined by 30% at Nord Pool exchange between 2014 and 2017, allowing end user costs to decline, says Latvenergo.

Alcohol sellers in Estonia to be checked by little «police»

To find shop assistants illegally selling alcohol or tobacco to minors, Estonian police introduces the method of sending minors as police aides to retail shops to try to purchase the products banned to them.

EY study: cyber security has become a priority to banks this year

Over the course of the year, priorities of banks around the world have switched from reputation and risk management to data security matters, as concluded in the latest EY Global Banking Outlook 2018.

Political association: UGF and Harmony are covering up state capture

«Parliamentary investigation of Oligarchs case has shown what is what in the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia. Green farmers are in full harmony, covering up Aivars Lembergs and the fact of state capture. They and Inguna Sudraba have made the parliamentary investigation into a farce. Unfortunately, the power in those people’s hands is no farce – rather misfortune for all of Latvia. I hope citizens will take all that into account when they go voting,» says leader of Kustība Par! Daniels Pavļuts.

Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel plan lacks ambition, says «Angry Birds» game maker

While Finland and Estonia work on plans of an under-sea tunnel from Tallinn to Helsinki, the construction of which could start in the 2030s, a Finnish businessman, previously involved in development of Angy Birds video game, has presented plans to finish the massive construction project in 2024 already.

Experts: healthcare financing law will deny healthcare to the least protected

In a discussion regarding healthcare, experts said that Latvian President Raimonds Vējoņis’ proposed Healthcare Financing Law is economically unjustified and ineffective. The document lacks principles of a socially responsible state, because healthcare is becoming less accessible, which will likely worsen public health indexes, says Kustība Par! political party.

Branded «aggressor state», Russia says Ukraine buries Minsk peace agreements

As the Donbas War continues, the parliament of Ukraine has passed the so-called Donbas reintegration bill after three days of debates defining territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country as temporarily occupied by Russia.

Weather to remain winter-like in Latvia during the weekend and next week

On Friday and Saturday, no major increase of snow is expected. Air temperature will increase slightly, but colder masses of air will slow into the country on Sunday, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Winter storm in Netherlands and Germany turns tragic

A powerful winter storm in western and central Europe has claimed the lives of eight people.

Lithuanian bishops: skipping fasting on February 16 this year is not a sin

In an unprecedented move, the Conference of Lithuanian Bishops, the governing body of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, said that meat dishes okay for the people of faith on February 16, which marks the 100-year anniversary of Lithuania's statehood and the Lent Friday, which is traditionally a day of fasting for religious Catholic people.

Coincidence? Votes from Harmony and UGF ensure Sudraba remains the head of Oligarchs case committee

On Thursday, 18 January, the majority of Saeima members voted against the proposal to dismiss Inguna Sudraba from the post of the head of parliamentary investigative committee in charge of the review of the infamous Oligarchs case.

Kaljulaid criticised over involvement of acclaimed, but unrestrained director in centennial reception

As Estonia readies for the presidential reception to honour the 100th anniversary of Estonia, its President Kersti Kaljulaid is being criticised in an open letter for trusting Tallinn’s NO99 theatre, whose director physically assaulted a female colleague.

22.1% of Latvia’s residents subjected to risk of poverty

In 2017, 425 thousand persons or 22.1 % of Latvia population were at risk of poverty in 2016 – 0.3 percentage points less than in 2015. Equivalent income of this part of the population were below 330 euros monthly.

LAAC: Latvia’s milk market can be sorted out by joining forces in exports

Latvian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives (LAAC) has received support and praise for the public discussion regarding rapid milk procurement price changes, which is something that has recently affected the majority of agricultural cooperatives. This has helped cooperatives band together in order to sort out the milk market. This idea came from the example set by grain producer cooperatives, which did the same thing fifteen years ago, as reported by the association’s representatives.

Forevers announces its decision to exit from Latvian Federation of Food Companies

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Saeima’s Oligarchs case investigative committee hastily approves final report

In spite of objections, grammatical errors, criticisms about lacking effort, as well as Inguna Sudraba’s unfit status to lead the committee, members decided to move the meeting from 11:00 to 08:00 and approve the final report in a rushed vote.

Removal of 1 and 2 euro cent coins from circulation suggested by Bank of Estonia

Estonian central bank is willing to follow the eurozone trend of limiting the circulation of euro 1-cent and 2-cent coins and in time to remove them entirely from circulation in the Baltic country.

Cert.lv: attacks on e-health system and LETA were likely ordered

Attacks on e-health system and LETA agency were likely ordered, said Cert.lv deputy manager Varis Teivāns in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LTV.

As Catalan parliament reconvenes, it elects pro-independence speaker

The Catalan regional parliament has in its first sitting since its ousting and snap December election elected a separatist-minded politician as its Chairman, which indicates that the attempts to break the region away from Spain would continue.

Latvia’s National Armed forces receive new Harris tactical radio equipment

In 2017, Latvia received tactical military radios worth USD 10.5 million from American Harris Corporation. Procurement of radio equipment will further improve command function and help develop a lasting communication system with other NATO member states, as reported by Latvian Defence Ministry.

MEP: Europe continues strengthening its energy independence

«The European Parliament has voiced strong support towards Europe’s energy independence and moving its energy policy away from Russia’s monopoly by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources,» said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš after the vote on Clean Energy Act’s first reading in Strasbourg.

Apple expected to pay additional 38 billion USD in taxes for money kept abroad

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