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Monday 19.08.2019 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta

Week in Lithuania: International gang busted, Olympic champion retires, customs block rocket entry

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

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 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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EU: Rīgas satiksme cuts Latvian budget fiscal room in 2020 by 72 mln EUR

The Riga city company Rīgas satiksme should, according to European Union criteria, be in included in the general government sector, thus it would cut the fiscal space of the 2020 Latvian state budget by 72 million euros, Finance Ministry stated.

Latvijas Krājbanka’s administrator recovered 542 thousand euros in July

The administrator of the insolvent Latvian bank Latvijas Krājbanka recovered 524 444 euros in July, which is by 75% more than a month earlier, according to the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis.

Latvian post-reform administrative centres to have 2 000 - 630 000 populations

After the planned administrative reform of Latvia, the population size of the administrative centres of the new municipalities is expected to vary from 2 000 to 632 000 people, according to a conceptual report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A week of warm, but changing weather forecast for Latvia

Weather in Latvia this week is expected to be summer-like and warm, with rain expected on Thursday and Friday, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Kabul wedding terror attack committed by Islamic State, the group says

Responsibility for the terror attack in Afghanistan, where explosives killed 63 people. has been claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terrorist group.

British Gibraltar releases seized Iran oil tanker

An Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, has sailed away from port after being allowed to do so despite Washington’s call to detain it again.

BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s biggest budget; PNB Bank halts operations; Latvia sad with Latvia

Some positive news surfaced in Latvia this week – Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced that the country’s next budget will be the largest one yet and will exceed EUR 10 billion. In spite of this, however, financial difficulties have been observed – PNB Bank has ended up in a tight spot. The bank’s shortage of funds has forced Finance and Capital Market Commission to halt all of the bank’s financial operations.

Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.