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Week in Lithuania. Vilnius Russia Forum attended by prominent anti-Putinists

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Russian chess legend and opposition activist Garry Kasparov

The annual Vilnius Russia Forum took place on March 8-9 in Trakai.

The forum focused on key issues related to Russia’s domestic and foreign policy, the human rights situation in Russia, prospects for Russia’s economic and political development, the relations between Russia and the West, and its future.

Famous Soviet-era dissidents – Sergei Kovalev and Tomas Venclova – , Russian opposition figures Garry Kasparov un MP Ilya Ponomarev, as well as journalists Evgeny Kiselev, Masha Gessen, Mikhail Zygar, Artemy Troitsky, and Lilia Shevtsova were among the participants of the forum.

«Vilnius Russia Forum provides all of us with an opportunity to discuss the processes taking place in Russia, and to exchange views on how we can further develop ties with Russian democratic forces and society,» said Linas Linkevičius, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Russian journalists expelled from Lithuania

Journalists of the Russian TV channel Rossiya who tried to enter the Vilnius Russia Forum forum in Lithuania have been blacklisted and expelled from the country, the State Security Department said. Rossiya journalists attempted to trick their way into a forum attended by Russian opposition figures and intellectuals in Trakai.

Foreign Ministry issued statement on Ukrainian pilot

The Foreign Ministry has condemned the illegal detention and imprisonment in the Russian Federation of the Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko.

«We express great concerns over Savchenko’s health, as it has significantly deteriorated due to prolonged fasting. She requires adequate medical assistance and health care. The illegal abduction and imprisonment of Savchenko, who was elected as a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine, is a serious violation of international human rights law, while the Russian Federation’s refusal to extradite Savchenko to Ukraine is definitely a breach of the Minsk accords. We call on the Russian Government and law enforcement authorities to respect human rights, to immediately and unconditionally release Savchenko and other Ukrainian citizens who are being unlawfully held in the territory of Russia, and to ensure their return to their homeland,» reads the statement.

PM sees violations in environment minister’s actions

PM Algirdas Butkevičius says that a preliminary report from lawyers he received on Wednesday, March 9, concludes that Environment Minister Kęstutis Trečiokas has not violated any laws. Still, the prime minister says he sees «ethical and moral» missteps on Trečiokas’ part, without commenting on whether he will ask for the minister’s resignation. The minister said he will «make up his mind» by Monday, March 14.  Meanwhile, President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that replacing the government before general elections would be «irresponsible.»

Foreign vice-minister meets with members of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada

The deputy Foreign Affair minister Andrius Krivas and members of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine met on Tuesday, March 8. The officials discussed important issues related to the relationship between Lithuania and Ukraine, the EU-Ukraine agenda, the security situation in eastern Ukraine, the implementation of the Minsk accords, Lithuania’s support for Ukraine, and how the trade part of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement could be best used to deepen the bilateral economic relationship. In a meeting, Krivas drew attention to guidelines for reforms under the Association Agreement, which Ukraine should follow for the implementation of its reforms in the coming years.

Museum at President’s Palace opened

A new museum opened at the President’s Palace on Thursday, March 10, will introduce visitors to the functioning of the Lithuanian state. The Centre for Civic Education, housed at a previously unused part of the President’s Palace in central Vilnius, boasts the most innovative interactive exposition in the country, according to the President’s Office. Visitors will be able to touch all exhibits, use tablets to access additional information and leave comments that will become part of the exposition.

Vilnius taxi drivers strike against Uber

Vilnius taxi drivers went a strike on Wednesday, March 9, in protest of what they call preferential treatment for the ride sharing service Uber. Vilnius authorities deny the accusations.

Lithuanian-German cooperation discussed in Berlin

The Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rolandas Kačinskas, attended political consultations in Berlin on Wednesday, March 9. The meetings focused on the bilateral cooperation between Germany and Lithuania, and prospects to expand it, the next NATO Summit in Warsaw, the situation in Ukraine, the relationship with Russia, the migrant crisis and other issues on the international agenda. According to Kačinskas, Lithuania seeks to deepen cooperation with Germany in various fields.  In the meetings, officials also discussed the EU-NATO cooperation.

Healthcare minister appointed

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė appointed Juras Požela of the Social Democratic Party as the country’s new health minister.

Germany’s Lidl to open over 10 stores in Lithuania

Germany’s budget retailer Lidl announced it will open over 10 supermarkets in Lithuania by mid-year. Lidl is expected to pay higher salaries for its employees than the other grocery chains.

Vilnius-based Belarusian University discusses funding with donors

The European Humanities University (EHU), a Vilnius-based Belarusian school in exile, held a donors’ conference on Thursday, March 10, to discuss the university’s finances and future role.  Some critics say the University’s activities need to be overhauled as the school has allegedly failed to meet its key objectives – disseminate ideas of democracy in Belarus.

Eurozone growth to drive Lithuania’s exports by 5 %

Lithuania’s exports are expected to jump 5% to 11.1 billion euro in 2016, driven by stronger economic growth in both the Eurozone and Scandinavian countries, according to Enterprise Lithuania’s latest projections.

EU visitors replace Russian tourists in Lithuania

Despite a dramatic drop of one-third in the number of tourists from Russia visiting Lithuania, the country still attracted 2.3% more foreign tourists than last year with visits from other European Union citizens, which were up 11.9% in 2015.

Supreme Court clears presidential spokeswoman of crime

Lithuania’s Supreme Court has cleared presidential spokeswoman Daiva Ulbinaitė on the charges of leaking classified information.

Lithuanian archiving company acquired by US’s Iron Mountain

Lithuanian archiving and document storage company, Archive Systems, has been acquired by US storage giant Iron Mountain as part of deal to acquire Archyvų Centras, the parent company for Archive Systems and a number of other companies in Estonia and Latvia.

Lithuania has one of smallest gender pay gaps

Lithuania has one of the smallest pay gaps between men and women with the 7th smallest difference between the average wage given to men and women, according to the OECD.

Foreign trade deficit in Lithuania

Statistics Lithuania informed that exports in January 2016 amounted to 1 568.9 million euro, imports -1 579.2 million euro. Exports of goods of Lithuanian origin amounted to 1 020.8 million euro. The foreign trade deficit of Lithuania amounted to 10.3 million euro. Over the month (January 2016 against December 2015), exports decreased by 16.7%, imports – 24.5%.The decrease in exports was influenced by a decrease in exports of machinery and mechanical appliances and parts thereof (40.7%), petroleum products (18.7%), electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof (28.7%). Exports of goods of Lithuanian origin decreased by 5.1%, mineral products excluded – 2.1%.

PM asks in over Belarus NPP

PM Algirdas Butkevičius has asked Energy ministry to find out if it is technically possible to restrict the supply of electricity from Belarus’ new nuclear power plant, which is part of the so-called BRELL energy ring that also includes the Baltic countries and Russia.

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