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Week in Lithuania. Two refugee families flee Lithuania‘s Refugee Reception Centre, get caught

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Two refugee families have left the Refugee Reception Centre in Rukla in eastern Lithuania, and attempted to leave the country, but were caught, however.

«We‘re talking about two young families that each have two small children. One of the families left and never came back, while the other was intercepted on the border and brought back to the refugee centre,» Social Security and Labour Vice-Minister Algirdas Šešelgis said Thursday October 27. According to the report, both families had been relocated to Lithuania in mid-October.

Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas confirmed that one of the families from Syria had been detained in Poland.

In Žilinskas‘ words, the family was being transported by a Serbian national who has a residence permit in Germany. An investigation has been launched by Lithuanian border service, the Serbian man is in detention.

Robertas Mikulėnas, director of the Refugee Reception Centre, confirmed that an Iraqi family and a family from Syria without citizenship had left in early hours of Monday, October 24, adding that the Iraqis had been returned to Lithuania.

Kaljulaid emphasises regional cooperation

Intense cooperation among the Baltic countries will ensure the strength and security of the region, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid said in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Wednesday, October 26.

«Lithuania is a good neighbour to Estonia, a close partner in the European Union and an ally in NATO. Our region’s strength is ensured by unity of the Baltic countries on key topics such as security and energy independence,» Kaljulaid said after a meeting with her Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaitė.

The two presidents spoke about the future of the European Union, the Ukraine-Russia crisis, defence cooperation of the Baltic countries and energy independence, the migration crisis, Eastern Partnership and the impact of the British referendum on the EU, spokespeople for the president‘s office said.

The heads of state also spoke about the future of Rail Baltic as a project important for the region. The two presidents upheld the same positions when speaking about the migrant crisis.

Speaking of Eastern Partnership, Kaljulaid said the plan is a long-term foreign policy priority. The visit to Lithuania is the third get-acquainted visit for the Estonian president since taking office earlier this month. She went to Finland and then to Latvia last week and is scheduled to visit Poland next week.

Supreme Court trashes genocide conviction after ECHR decision

The Lithuanian Supreme Court on Thursday, October 27, quashed the conviction of Vytautas Vasiliauskas, a former Soviet state security officer sentenced for genocide. The ruling of the plenary session of the Supreme Court follows a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in which the Strasbourg Court gave its opinion on the application of the notion of genocide in examining cases connected with the annihilation of partisans.

The case against Vasiliauskas and Martina Žukaitienė, who had been sentenced together, was dropped after both of them passed away. Judge Olegas Fedosiukas stated that the court ruling does mean rehabilitation of both individuals, adding that the ruling lists Vasiliauskas as having served in a n occupational structure that carried out repressions. In 2004, Vasiliauskas was convicted along with another former Soviet security agent, Žukaitienė. The latter was sentenced to five years in prison, while Vasiliauskas was sentenced to six years, however, they were both dismissed of actual jail term due to frail health.

Lithuania‘s State Security Department launches confidential hotline

The Lithuanian State Security Department announced on Thursday, October 27, the launch of a confidential hotline and the start of a public awareness campaign. Darius Jauniškis, the department’s director, said that the special anonymous telephone line will help Lithuanian citizens to more actively and directly contribute to the strengthening the country’s security. As part of the public awareness campaign, video clips based on real life stories of recruitment of Lithuanian citizens by foreign special services will be broadcast through mass media channels.

First new German trucks delivered to Lithuanian army

Representatives of Germany‘s Daimler AG handed over the first UNIMOG U5000 military trucks to the Lithuanian Armed Forces in a ceremony in the Kazlų Rūda training area on Thursday, October 27. Twenty-one out of the 340 UNIMOG U5000 trucks that the Lithuanian army is planning to purchase have been delivered this month, the Defence Ministry said.

A contract with Daimler AG on the acquisition of new tactical 5-ton trucks was signed in 2015, with around 70 million euros planned to be spent on the project. Under the contract, the German manufacturer was to deliver 21 trucks to the Lithuanian Armed Forces this month, with the remaining 319 trucks to be ordered and delivered between 2017 and 2022.

President will not pressure over coalition formation

President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that she will not put any pressure on the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), the party that won the most seats in the recent parliamentary elections, over ruling coalition partners. «I think I don‘t even have such a right under the Constitution and, therefore, I am saying it openly: there will be no pressure on my part regarding partners,» she told reporters on Thursday, October 27.

PM: SD will not hinder Peasants

Social Democratic Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says that his party will not hinder the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), which scored a resounding victory in the recent parliamentary elections, in their efforts to form a new ruling coalition.

«We will not deliberately place obstacles and say that the party (LPGU) is not able to form a coalition,» he said. «What the Social Democrats want to hear from the Peasants and Greens first of all is what legislative steps the winning party is planning to take in the near future,» the PM added.

Peasants & Greens decide on PM

Ramūnas Karbauskis, chairman of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union, says that the party has decided on Saulius Skvernelis, the leader of its election campaign, as the party’s candidate to become the country’s next prime minister, the LRT TV news service reported.

The Peasants and Greens have dropped the idea of proposing Bronis Ropė, a member of the European Parliament, for prime minister. Karbauskis mentioned him as a possible candidate on the election night. «In light of public discussions, we now think that we will most probably have to return to Saulius Skvernelis (as our PM candidate). Nobody probably has any doubts about him and this is probably what people expected,»the chairman said on Wednesday, October 26.

NATO chief: deterrence is key

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, October 27, assured the Baltic States that the most important thing for the Alliance was to deter, not to copy Russian actions amid the rising tensions between the West and Moscow over its increased military activity in the Baltic Sea region. At a meeting with journalists from the Baltic states at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the NATO chief recalled the Cold War era when t he war of nerves with Russia had peaked.

«Deterrence is the key, the unity of NATO is the key. All countries are different and all situations are different but West Berlin during the Cold War was the island in the middle of East Germany. But they felt safe because they knew that NATO was behind and sending a clear message about that NATO will protect West Berlin,» said Stoltenberg. The Alliance‘s concerns about the Moscow actions were fueled by Wednesday‘s deployment of two vessels armed with nuclear-capable Kalibr long-range missile systems in the Russian Baltic Fleet.

Lithuania on bottom of EU transport summary

Lithuania ranks among the last countries of the European Union (EU) in terms of investments in the transport sector, infrastructure and human satisfaction, the European Commission’s mission in Lithuania said. According to the EU transport summary published by the European Commission (EC) on Thursday, October 27, Lithuania ranks 22nd together with Poland. In 2014–2020, Lithuania’s transport sector should receive nearly 1.1 billion euros from the EU budget. On the index, Latvia and Estonia ranked 13th together with the Czech Republic.

City Service group expands to Spain

City Service, the Lithuanian real estate maintenance group with operations in the Baltic states, Poland, Spain and Russia, has expanded its building maintenance portfolio in Spain. The company said via the Warsaw stock exchange that it had signed two building maintenance contracts in and around Madrid. According to the report, the contracts are in connection to maintenance of 308 residential buildings with 16,000 apartments. Revenue from the maintenance operations should amount to 700,000 euros per year.

Lithuanian investors buy mall in Riga

KS Holding, a company owned by the Rakauskas family and Zabolis Partners, has purchased Latvia‘s MD Galerija Azur, the holding entity for the Atrium Azur shopping center, from Atrium European Real Estate Limited in a deal worth 12.5 million euros. KS Holding said in a press release on Thursday, October 27, that it will invest an additional 16 million euros in the shopping centre. The 20,400-square-meter Atrium Azur was opened in August 2006. Its largest tenant is the grocery chain Rimi.

Devbridge invests in Lithuania

Devbridge LT, a Lithuanian programming services company that is part of the U.S.-owned Devbridge Group, is investing 3.68 million euros in expansion, the business daily Verslo Žinios reported on Thursday, October 27. Devbridge LT is planning to increase its staff in Vilnius from 50 to 130 and to move from the current 500-square-meter office to a new office that is three times larger. The company is also planning to treble the staff in Kaunas and move to a 4,000-square-meter office, three times as big as the current one.

Government backs registration of pre-paid SIM cards

The Lithuanian government on Wednesday, October 26, approved in principle a proposal to introduce mandatory registration of pre-paid SIM cards. Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas says that both newly-issued and existing SIM cards would have to be registered. The Interior Ministry, which proposed the draft amendments, says that the new requirement would help combat telephone fraudsters. The minister also expects that the measure would contribute to the fight against terrorism.

The amendments are yet to be formally endorsed by the Cabinet and then passed by the Seimas. According to data from the Information Technology and Communications Department under the Interior Ministry, around 300 crimes are committed annually by using mobile phones, causing average material damage of 242,000 euros per year. The ministry proposes to introduce the new measure in mid-2018.

Seimas panel calls for extra funding for VSD

The Lithuanian parliament‘s National Security and Defence Committee proposes to increase budget appropriations for the State Security Department (VSD) by 2 million euros instead of cutting funding for the department as envisaged in next year’s draft budget. «We believe that an additional 2 million euros has to be allocated to the SSD so that they could meet the present-day requirements,» Artūras Paulauskas, head of the committee, said Wednesday, October 26.

The committee earlier in the day discussed the proposed budget appropriations for the SSD for 2017. The current draft budget for 2017 earmarks 24 million euros for the department, down by 54,000 euros compared with this year.

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