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Week in Lithuania. Parliament speaker urges academic ethics guard to resign amid anti-Semitism claims

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Parliament Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis on Friday, February 9, urged Vigilijus Sadauskas , ombudsman for academic ethics and procedures, to step down amid allegations of anti-Semitism after he proposed a reward for a research thesis about Jewish crimes in the 1900s.

Sadauskas plans to stay on. In the parliamentary speaker’s words, the ombudsman «failed the examination of neutrality».

The Seimas authorised the Parliament’s Education and Science Committee to scrutiny the ombudsman’s actions. The ombudsman’s of academic ethics and procedures is appointed by the whole parliament after proposal from the Lithuanian Research Council.

In a blog entry, Sadauskas offered 1,000 euros «to a school student, a university student, a postgraduate student, a teacher or a scientist who will collect information, documents, materials and write a thesis (at least 10 printed pages) or a publication about individuals of Jewish nationality who killed people, contributed to deportations or tortures».

Embattled theatre director faces prosecutorial investigation

Jonas Vaitkus, head of the Russian Theatre of Lithuania, has publicly dismissed sexual harassment allegations as part of a «defamation campaign» carried out by Russian propaganda channels ahead of the selection of a new head of the Russian-language theatre in Vilnius. He claims that the defamation campaign against him has been systematically carried out by media organizations run by forces unfriendly to Lithuania, such as the online portals Sputnik.lt and Baltnews.lt and the TV station First Baltic Channel (PBK).

Several former students of Vaitkus have come forward with the detail description of unwanted sexual approach by Vaitkus in the past. Vaitkus has been suspended from work with students at the Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy. Meanwhile, the Vilnius District Prosecutor’s Office has launched a pre-trial investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Vaitkus as well as a couple of well-known teachers at the Lithuanian Academy of Arts.

PM hits back at president’s criticism

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Monday, February 5, hit back at criticism that the government «lacks capacity» to implement laws, saying that the president’s office apparently thus tries to compensate for its lack of action. «It seems to me that, seeing the government carrying out reforms in areas that had been untouched for a number of years, the president’s office tries to get involved and thus compensate for their inactivity,» he told reporters.

Skvernelis was commenting on a recent statement by Daiva Ulbinaitė, spokeswoman for President Dalia Grybauskaitė that «a lack of capacity by the government and individual ministries to implement key laws is becoming increasingly apparent».

Two-thirds of Lithuanians don’t trust U.S. President

Two-thirds of Lithuanians have no confidence in U.S. President Donald Trump, an opinion poll showed on Thursday, February 8. Those polled were asked if they trusted the US president and other political leaders to make the right decisions on key political issues. Some 16.1 per cent of respondents said they trusted Trump and 66.6 per cent said they distrusted him. Another 17.4 per cent had no opinion.

Interwar warship’s flag to go on display in Klaipėda

A Lithuanian flag that once flew over the Prezidentas Smetona, the first Lithuanian warship of the interwar period, will be placed on temporary display at the Lithuanian Sea Museum in Klaipeda. The two-meter-long, three-meter-wide tricolour will be handed over to the museum in a ceremony at the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in Vilnius on Thursday, February 8. The flag was preserved by Henry Gaidis, a Lithuanian-American who knew Povilas Labanauskas, the last captain of the ship.

Vilnius names street after Poland’s late president

The municipality of Vilnius on Wednesday, February 7, named a street in the capital after Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in 2010. The City Council voted unanimously to name a nameless street next to the municipality building after the neighbouring country’s late president. The ruling parties sought the street to be named after Kaczynski before Polish President Andrzej Duda’s planned visit to Vilnius for Lithuania’s centenary celebrations next week.

Wood industry group VMG set to invest 180 mn euro

Vakaru Medienos Grupė (VMG), one of the largest wood and furniture groups in the Baltics, is set to invest 180 million euros in the northern Lithuanian district of Akmenė, with plans to build a new particle board factory by 2020 and a new furniture production facility at a later stage, the district’s mayor Vitalijus Mitrofanovas said. According to him, around 400 new jobs would be created in total.

Lithuania to earmark 350 mn euro for railway electrification

Lithuania plans to allocate almost 350 million euros for the electrification of the Vilnius railway bypass and a railway line between Kaišiadorys and Klaipeda, with most of the money expected to come from EU funds and the rest to be invested by Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways). Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis has signed an order to supplement the list of EU co-funded national projects, the Transport Ministry said.

The total value of the electrification projects is estimated at 349.1 million euros, of which 224.1 million euros should come from the EU’s Cohesion Fund. Plans call for electrifying the 34-kilometre Vilnius railway hub and linking it to the already electrified Vilnius-Kaunas line in 2019 to 2022. Trains will be able to run at speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour on this line.

Palanga wants to revive Šventoji harbour

The local authority of Lithuania’s Baltic Sea resort of Palanga wants to revive the nearby Šventoji harbour and adapt it for use by fishing vessels. Palanga officials estimate that almost 2.2 million euros would be enough to carry out the planned project, with most of the money expected to be provided by the Agriculture Ministry from EU funds. However, Palanga has to take over the ownership of the Šventoji harbour from its current owner, the Klaipeda state seaport authority, to be able to apply to the ministry for funding.

Some 135 Lithuanian schools closed due to flu outbreak

Some 135 schools in Lithuania, or 13 per cent of all of its schools, have been temporarily closed due to an outbreak of flu and cold, according to figures released by the Education and Science Ministry on Monday, February 5. Almost 30 schools of these schools are Kaunas and 16 in Vilnius.

Liberals to choose their presidential candidate

The opposition Lithuanian Liberal Movement will choose its candidate to run for Lithuanian president next year from among seven members of the party and expects to name him by April. The seven members are MEP Petras Auštrevius, MPs Eugenijus Gentvilas, Vitalijus Gailius and Arūnas Gelūnas, Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, Klaipėda mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas and Elektrėnai Mayor Kęstutis Vaitukaitis.

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