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Ceturtdiena 05.12.2019 | Name days: Sabīne, Sarma, Klaudijs
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Week in Lithuania: International gang busted, Olympic champion retires, customs block rocket entry

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Lithuania’s Olympic champion, swimmer Rūta Meilutytė

Last week, an armed gang of 22 persons, involved in arms and drugs smuggling and possible murder, was handcuffed in Lithuania; Lithuania changed anti-money laundering tactics to better prevent money laundering; the ruling LFGU offered to drop all ongoing parliamentary investigations of economic crisis.

JUSTICE: Estonians associated with armed gang busted in Lithuania

As a result of the joint activity of the police of Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Spain and UK, an armed gang of 22 persons who were involved in arms and drugs smuggling was handcuffed in Lithuania. The gang is also suspected of having organized the murder of Kaunas resident Deimantas Bugavičius in 2015. There are Lithuanian citizens among the detainees, including the gang’s suspected leader who was detained in Spain. Altogether 40 house searches took place, resulting in the seizure of 8 million euros in cash, diamonds, gold bars, jewellery and luxury vehicles, as well as the discovery of hidden compartments used to smuggle drugs and psychotropic substances.

Strasbourg court’s landmark ruling appealed

A former KGB officer has appealed the European Court of Human Rights’ landmark ruling that Soviet repressions against Lithuanian partisans can be treated as genocide. Kęstutis Rakauskas, the defence lawyer of Stanislovas Drelingas, the former KGB officer convicted of genocide in Lithuania, has asked this week for the case to be reconsidered by the Strasbourg-based court’s Grand Chamber. His request should be examined by a panel of five ECHR judges, who will decide in the coming months if to refer the case to the 17-member Grand Chamber.

Data watchdog launches probe into journalist’s actions

Lithuania’s State Data Protection Inspectorate said on Wednesday, May 22, it had launched an investigation into allegedly unlawful actions of journalist Sarunas Černiauskas. He was sacked by his employer 15min.lt after it turned out that he produced analyses on public figures and businesses to a PR company for remuneration without informing the employer.

Prosecutors halt separate probe into 1991 Soviet crackdown

Prosecutors have confirmed this week that they, having explored all possibilities, suspended, three weeks ago, a separate pre-trial investigation into the 1991 Soviet crackdown on Lithuania’s independence movement. In 2014, the investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes in 1991 was separated from the main case, which was closed and sent to a first-instance court that delivered its judgment earlier this year. In March, the Vilnius Regional Court found Dmitry Yazov, a former Soviet defence minister, and more than 60 other former Soviet officials and military officers guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their involvement in the Soviet aggression in Vilnius on January 13, 1991.

POLITICS: Seimas probes’ fate depends on new president

The Seimas will drop all ongoing parliamentary investigations and will hand them over to the prosecutor’s office if Lithuania’s new president overhauls the prosecution system to ensure its independence, the ruling LFGU party’s leader Ramūnas Karbauskis said on Thursday, May 23. According to Karbauskis, the parliament is forced to investigate the causes of the 2009-2010 economic crisis because lawmakers do not trust the prosecutor’s office. The daily Lietuvos Rytas has in recent weeks published articles and interviews with several prosecutors about allegedly dubitable criminal cases, political influence and Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis’ activities.

BUSINESS: Investments into Vilnius Airport

Around 130 million euros will be invested into the expansion and reconstruction of Lithuania’s largest Vilnius Airport over the next four years, until 2022, and annual revenue of Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports, LOU), the sate-run operator of three airports in Lithuania, is set to grow by around 43 per cent to 63 million euros, Lietuvos Oro Uostai said on Thursday, May 23.

TSO signs key power grid synchronisation agreement

Lithuania’s power transmission system operator (TSO) Litgrid signed on Tuesday, May 21, an agreement on the Baltic power grids’ connection to the continental European network for synchronous operation.

ROW: Bar Association, SIS clash over surveillance info

The Lithuanian Bar Association on Thursday, May 23, expressed its indignation over the Special Investigation Service’s refusal to provide information on alleged surveillance and tapping of lawyers. The SIS says it is strictly following the operation secrecy laws and says the requests are unfounded and purely based on curiosity. This is not the first time when lawyers and the SIS exchange accusations.

NEIGHBOURS: Customs officers block rocket launch system from Belarus

Lithuanian customs officers refused to allow a rocket launch system (RLS) from Belarus to enter the country earlier this week. Components for the M20 Missile Weapon System Model system were being transported to Lithuania with the destination in China by two trucks, the Customs Criminal Service said on Thursday, May 23.

TRANSPARENCY: Lithuania changes anti-money laundering tactics

In a change of anti-money laundering tactics, Lithuania’s authorities open pre-trial investigations even if there are only suspicions about the origin of money, Mindaugas Petrauskas, deputy director of the Financial Crime Investigation Service (FNNT), said on Wednesday, May 22.  According to him, the state received 4 million euros in extra revenue last year, even though the investigations were discontinued. According to Petrauskas, Lithuania’s authorities learned their lessons from the bankruptcies of two local banks, Snoras and Ūkio Bankas.

SPORTS: Meilutytė retires from professional swimming

Lithuania’s Olympic champion Rūta Meilutytė announced her decision on Wednesday, May 22, to end her professional swimmer’s career, citing personal reasons and the wish to focus on education. At the age of 15, Meilutytė won a gold medal at the London Olympics. She has won 18 medals, 12 golden and six silver, at world and European championships.

Lithuania to bid to host 2023 World Rowing Championships

Lithuania will bid to host the 2023 World Rowing Championships. The Cabinet gave on Wednesday, May 22, the go-ahead for the Lithuanian Rowing Federation to submit the country’s bid to the International Rowing Federation. The government plans to allocate 2 million euros for the tournament events. Lithuania would play host to the World Rowing Championships for the first time.


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VID officials will need to have spotless reputation, Saeima decides

From now on, officials of the State Revenue Service (VID) will need to have a spotless reputation. This is decided by Saeima’s amendments to the Law on State Revenue Service approved in the final reading on 5 December, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Brazil at risk of losing vote in UN General Assembly because of high debts

There are risks that because of failure to pay its debts to the United Nations Organization, Brazil could lose its voting rights in the UN General Assembly, Reuters reports.

Strained Lithuanian budget is desperate for additional sources of revenues

With the adoption of the new year’s budget skidding, two major professional groups – teachers and doctors – have had this week their demand for higher salaries satisfied, thus deepening the holes in the shallowing budget. Where to scoop up money to patch all the gaps and satisfy all the demands? This week, Seimas, Lithuanian legislature, was in a frantic search for additional sources of revenues.

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board official detained on suspicion of embezzlement

Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a senior officer of Police and Border Guard Board at the South Prefecture on suspicion of document forgery and embezzlement of more than EUR 250 000, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Saeima supports government’s decision to extend state of emergency in Riga

On Thursday, 5 December, Saeima agreed with the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency with waste management in Riga’s administrative territory until 12 March 2020, as reported by the Saeima’s press-service.

Flu infection rates remain low in Latvia, but infection spread continues nonetheless

A total of 30 clinically confirmed flu infection cases were registered in Latvia’s healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, virus activity remains low in the country, according to the latest monitoring report on influenza and acute upper respiratory tract infections compiled by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform, Reuters reports.

Marguerite Fund to sell Conexus shares to Japanese Marubeni fund

Shareholder in Latvian natural gas transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid, Marguerite Fund plans to sell its owned 29.06% of Conexus shares to Japanese company Marubeni fund.

Saeima’s majority may move towards Riga City Council’s dismissal

The majority of Latvia’s Saeima may vote towards dismissing Riga City Council, according to unofficial information from LETA. There is also a more reserved position on this, but generally it is admitted that Riga City Council’s dismissal process will be initiated.

National Economy Committee invites reviewing Rail Baltica project’s management structure

«Considering the unstable situation and lasting stagnation with the project’s management, the National Economy Committee invites Transport Ministry to review the structure of RB Rail,» says Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Riga’s residents overpay.» Kleins proposes terminating contract with Rīgas karte

Riga City Council vice-chairman and shareholder in municipal company LLC Rīgas satiksme Druvis Kleins, has ordered the company’s lawyers to assess the option of quickly terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as confirmed by Kleins, who represents For Riga! bloc in the city council.

Newspaper: Russia plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad next year

Russia has plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad Oblast, which shares borders with Poland and Lithuania, as reported by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Ex-president says conflicts with territorial reform surface where the rich refuse to share

The objective of the territorial reform remains unchanged – forming economically more efficient administrative territories. This means creating counties able to sustain themselves and develop economically. Conflicts with the reform usually surface in areas, where the rich refuse to share. There are also situations when the poor want to receive and do nothing on their own, BNN was told by ex-President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers.

October’s industrial production output in Latvia increases 3%

Compared to October 2018, industrial production output increased by 3 % in October 2019, according to calendar adjusted data at constant prices.

Iceland’s prime minister urges making welfare a budget priority

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir urges the government to focus on priorities that serve the interest of families and nature, not focus exclusively on economic growth, BBC reports.

NATO leaders meet in spite of tension to discuss security challenges

In spite of ongoing rows, leaders of NATO member states met near London on Wednesday, 4 December, to discuss important topics like cyber security and strategic challenges created by China, BBC reports.

Latvian government extends state of emergency with waste management in Riga

Although Riga City Council has stated multiple times that it is not necessary to extend the state of emergency with waste management, Latvia’s government has nevertheless decided to extend it until March 2020.

SEB Bank clients now able to use mobile devices to pay for goods and services

SEB Bank clients who have a mobile phone with Android OS are now able to pay for goods and services using their phones. It is possible to use mobile phones to for transactions up to EUR 150 in Latvia and abroad using contact-free terminals, the bank reports.

Kleins: we may have to review who receives public transport discounts in Riga

Considering the complicated financial situation at Rīgas satiksme public transport company, it may be necessary to review which groups of people receive discounts and benefits, said Riga City Council’s vice-chairman Druvis Kleins in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Wednesday, 4 December.

Latvian pupils’ mathematics score above average among OECD member states

Latvian pupils’ mathematics skills are reportedly higher than average among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to results of OECD PISA 2018.

Environment Ministry to decide on Riga City Council’s dismissal this week

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s lawyers will prepare a report this week on whether or not it is necessary to initiate dismissal of Riga City Council, as journalists were told by Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce on Tuesday, 3 December.

Turkey upholds veto against NATO Baltic defence plans; Lithuania hopes for compromise

Ankara has reiterated its stance of blocking the adoption of updated Baltic defence plans in NATO as a bargaining chip in its attempts to label Kurdish groups in Syria as terrorists, according to the Turkish policy.

In spite of suspicions of fraud in VID, government promotes Kaspars Podiņš to general

Although multiple objections have been voiced in regards to Kaspars Podiņš’s work as chief of State Revenue Service’s Tax and Customs Office, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has nevertheless decided to promote him to general.

Estonian pupils – best among European nations in PISA education test

Estonian pupils’ skills have topped the list of European nations in the latest ranking of average education results of the survey of Programme for International Student Assessment carried out by the OECD in 79 countries and economies.

Latvia’s ruling coalition officially agrees on Kazāks as chosen Bank of Latvia governor

Parties of the ruling coalition in Latvia have agreed to pick the central bank’s council member Mārtiņš Kazāks as their chosen candidate for the posting of governor of the Bank of Latvia, politicians told journalists on Tuesday, 3 December after a meeting of ruling parties.


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