The U.S. Justice Department has announced it has accepted Lithuania’s request for extradition of former MP and former judge Neringa Venckienė, said new Lithuanian Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis.
Venckienė is notorious for her active involvement in a nearly five-year paedophilia saga, also involving already deceased her brother Drąsius Kedys, his daughter and Kedys’ girlfriend Laimutė Stankūnaitė, the girl’s mother.
Alleging that the state has failed to protect the girl, allegedly sexually abused by high-ranking men, clandestine buddies of his girlfriend, Kedys shot to death a senior judge in Kaunas and his sister-in-law. Law enforcement has exonerated Laimutė Stankūnaitė of any wrongdoing. With the accusations surfacing that Neringa Venckienė, Kedys’ sister, a fellow judge of the slain colleague, might have been behind the intricate scheme of calumny and murder, she fled Lithuania for the United States.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister: «Free media, journalist security among Lithuania’s priorities»
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, who was visiting Vilnius on Monday, February 1, discussed imminent threats of propaganda and premeditated disinformation, and the need to strengthen independent and fair media, which was especially relevant in today’s context of ongoing events in the EU’s eastern neighbours.
«State propaganda is another hybrid threat not only to countries in our region, but also to the whole of Europe. We are witnesses to how the state scale of propaganda is used in the context of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in order to achieve clear political objectives, to provoke a further escalation of the conflict and lead to the vulnerability of the society,» stressed the head of the Lithuanian diplomacy.
U.S. analysts: Russia could occupy three Baltic States within three days
If Russian tanks and troops invaded the Baltic States, NATO forces would be overrun in just under three days, according to a war games simulation by the Rand Corporation, a leading US think tank. In the event of a potential Russian military incursion in the Baltics, Russian forces would be knocking on the doors of the Estonian capital of Tallinn or the Latvian capital of Riga within 36 to 60 hours. US and Baltic troops – and American airpower – would be unable to halt the advance of mechanized Russian units and would suffer heavy casualties in the process, said the report.
The Obama administration has recently announced of allotting 3 billion euros to ramp up the U.S. military strength in Baltic States, Eastern Europe. Rand found that the United States and its NATO allies lack sufficient troop numbers or tanks and armoured vehicles to slow the advance of Russian armoured divisions.
Vilnius on top of Europe’s most happy city list
Dwellers of Vilnius have the third highest satisfaction rating for their city out of 79 capitals and cities across Europe, according to a new EU survey. The city authorities note that city residents’ index of happiness was on constant rise since the polling was started. Three years ago, with more than 5,000 residents of Vilnius polled, the happiness index in the capital city averaged out at 6.1 points out of 10.
President: pension indexation and labour flexibility should be at the cusp
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says she is somewhat sceptical about the so-called new social model, a package of reforms to the labour code and the country’s welfare system. She, however, called the Government to explore possibilities of raising the pensions, one of the lowest in Eastern Europe and on the bottom among the Baltic States.
NGO proposals on more transparent elections
Lithuanian branch of Transparency International (TILS), an international anti-corruption watchdog, has suggested measures to make Lithuanian political parties more transparent. Some of these include requirements to publish more information about their financing and to impose stricter sanctions for political campaign financing violations
Lithuanian economy to grow 2.9 percent in 2016
European Commission is forecasting that the Lithuanian economy will grow by 2.9 percent this year following a lackluster performance in 2015. Most analysts have put the growth at 3 percent for 2016.
Concerns over Ukraine’s Lithuanian Economy Minister resignation
The surprise resignation of Ukraine’s Lithuanian economy minister in protest at high-level corruption is a «cold shower» for Kiev’s political elite, Lithuania’s foreign minister says.
«It’s a cold shower for all those in Ukraine who believe their personal interests are more important than those of their country,» foreign minister Linas Linkevičius told. «It’s very alarming when one of the most effective reformists in the government says he can’t do his work,» he said.
Linkevičius noted there had been a«strong» international reaction, from EU ambassadors in Kiev and from the U.S., calling for Ukraine to do better.
Linkevičius spoke after Ukraine’s economy minister, fellow Lithuanian Aivarus Abromavičius, handed in his resignation saying he refused to act as «cover» for government corruption.
Citing the reasons of resignation, Abromavičius focused on obstructions to his work «ranging from a sudden removal of my security detail to pressure to appoint questionable individuals to my team, or to key positions in state-owned enterprises».
Teachers’ unions threaten new strikes
After meeting with government officials on Wednesday, February 3, Lithuanian teachers’ unions announced they would resume strikes, saying the government has failed to show «political will» to meet their demands. The teachers also want the government and trade unions to work out a long-term program of pay raise among other things.
Big winter storm forces Klaipėda port to close
A large winter storm that was battering the coast of Lithuania throughout the beginning of the week has forced Klaipėda port to stop ships from entering and leaving the port. The port resumed operations late Wednesday, February 3.
Lithuania’s Lukoil Baltija may be sold
Lukoil Baltija, a chain of filling stations owned by Russia’s Lukoil, may be sold in February, the chain’s chief executive officer said on February 4. «I am not the one in charge of this process and I cannot give any news at the moment. I know that the process is underway. When something is done, there will be an announcement from the owners. Perhaps this should take place this month,» Ivan Paleičik told.
The businessman denied that the buyer was he or companies controlled by his family. Paleičik and his wife own the Vaizga Group, the owner of gas stations operating under the brands of Luktarna, Baltic Petroleum and Lukoil. Also, Andrei Paleičik, his son, is the CEO of Spectator NT, a company that operates Baltic Petroleum gas stations.
Government extends 420 million euro loan to Sodra
The Lithuanian government has agreed to extend a 420 million euro interest-free loan to Lithuania’s social insurance fund, the Sodra, to help it «balance cash flows».
«We are taking the money from the state treasury and lending it on at zero interest, which does not mean that the money costs nothing to the state,» Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius said during the Cabinet’s meeting.
«To be specific, this amount of money was borrowed in late 2015 at 1.209 percent annual interest. Thus, around 5 million euros in state budget funds will be paid (annually) on this amount of money,» he said.
According to the minister, the state has in the past provided loans to Sodra at zero interest rates, which this year will cost the state budget 28.5 million euros, or 33.5 million euros in total, including the new loan.
Based on Sodra’s 2016 cash-flow forecast, the fund’s projected budget expenditure this year will be 742.8 million euros higher than its revenue. This deficit is to be covered by loans from the government and commercial banks.
Klaipėdos Nafta boosts January’s revenue by 17,6 percent
Lithuania’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil product terminals operator Klaipėdos Nafta (Klaipeda Oil) announced last week that its total revenue for January rose to 10.7 million euros, up 17.6 percent from 9.1 million euros a year earlier.Its oil product terminal and the fuel base last month generated 4.8 million euros in revenue, a rise of 29.7 percent, year-on-year.
President wants PM on the red carpet
President Dalia Grybauskaitė says she wants to have a «serious conversation» with Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius about corruption suspicions that have plagued his cabinet over the last week. The meeting is scheduled for next week after Butkevičius comes back from vacation in the Caribbean. His press service announced Prime Minister is not planning to cut short his vacation in the Caribbean despite several of his cabinet ministers have become embroiled in controversy.
Flu epidemic declared in nine municipalities
Nine out of 60 municipalities in Lithuania have declared a flu epidemic. A flu epidemic is announced when the number of flu and acute respiratory infection cases exceed 100 per population of 10,000. Visaginas, Kaunas, Panevėžys, Jurbarkas, Alytus, Druskininkai and Ukmergė had declared flu epidemic by Tuesday, according to the Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS. In these municipalities, schools have been advised to cancel classes if over one fifth of all students are absent. People are also advised to avoid mass events and not to go to hospitals unnecessarily. During the last week of January, there were 12, 428 diagnosed flu cases per population of 10,000 in Lithuania, according to the Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS.
Jewish community leader wants prosecutors to look into Holocaust perpetrators
The leader of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, Faina Kukliansky, says that the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre should submit the list of Holocaust perpetrators to prosecutors for scrutiny.Jews living in Lithuania never said Lithuanians were a nation of Jew-shooters and do not plan on doing so, but Lithuania should acknowledge the topic of the Holocaust, Faina Kukliansky, the leader of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said in a press release issued in the wake of heated discussions on the Holocaust.
Following the publication in Lithuania of a groundbreaking book on local complicity during the Holocaust, a state museum on genocide said it would publish a list of suspected perpetrators.
Teresė Birutė Burauskaitė, who heads the Vilnius-based Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, said her institution was intending to publish a book containing over 1,000 Lithuanian residents who are connected to the Holocaust.
Baltic retailer Maxima’s revenue up to 2.7 billion euros
Maxima Grupė (Maxima Group), the operator of the largest retail chain in the Baltics, said on Thursday, February 4, that its consolidated revenue rose by 3.6 percent in 2015 compared with 2014 to reach 2.677 billion euros, not including VAT. All of the group’s companies operating in five countries – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Poland – posted revenue growth, it said.
Major pharmacy retailer in focus of corruption investigation
Suspicions have been brought against two staff members of the Eurovaistinė drug store network as part of an ongoing investigation into suspected corruption at Šiauliai Hospital in northern Lithuania.
Lithuanian pupils keen on foreign languages
Around 80 percent of secondary school students in Lithuania study two or more foreign languages, well above the EU average of almost 60 percent, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics agency.
Garment retailer Apranga to expand in Latvia
Apranga Group, which has 25 upmarket fashion stores in the Baltic countries, says it does not plan an expansion of this segment in Lithuania this year, but it will expand in Latvia, the Lithuanian business daily Verslo Žinios reported on February 4. Apranga Group CEO Rimantas Perveneckas toldthat two stores of different brands would be opened in Riga. Premium, a chain of seven fashion stores that is owned by Kaunas-based Sinvest Fashion, last year increased revenue by around 20 percent and is considering expansion.
Energy Minister claims Veolia allegations «are unfounded»
Most of Veolia’s allegations against Lithuania seem to be unfounded, said Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis on Monday, February 1. Masiulis was commenting on the French group’s request for arbitration in which it is seeking around 100 million euro in compensation from the Lithuanian state for allegedly unfair treatment and expropriation of its Lithuanian assets.
President appoints new deputy chief prosecutor
Prosecutor Žydrūnas Radišauskas is to be appointed as deputy prosecutor general of Lithuania, the President’s Office said on Monday, February 1.
Lithuania among most reliant on energy imports in European Union
Lithuania’s energy dependency rate was one of the highest across the European Union (EU) in 2014, data from Eurostat showed on Thursday, February 2. The country’s energy dependency in 2014 stood at 77.9 percent, which means that Lithuania needed to import more than three fourths of the energy it consumed that year.
Lithuania’s energy dependency ranged from the lows of 41.6 percent in 2002 to the highs of 81.8 percent in 2010.Latvia’s and Estonia’s energy dependency rates in 2014 stood at 40.6 percent and 8.9 percent, respectively, and were the lowest since 1990.
Former Vilnius mayor suggests joining forces with Liberal Movement
Former Vilnius mayor Artūras Zuokas, leader of the Lithuanian Freedom Union, says his party is planning to approach the Liberal Movement about joining forces in the general elections this October. But Eligijus Masiulis, the leader of Lietuvos Liberalų Sąjudis (Liberal Movement), the second party in the opinion polls, says he «doubts» sincerity of the Zuokas-led party.