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Sunday 16.06.2019 | Name days: Justīne, Juta

Week in Lithuania: Moscow Ambassador in trouble, fake news on minister, judicial corruption on news

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Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Remigijus Motuzas

Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Remigijus Motuzas, who was questioned as a special witness in a bribe-related visa case on Wednesday, April 10, casts a shadow on the whole diplomatic service, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Thursday, April 11. Ambassador will likely lose his job.

BNN offers a summary of past week’s topical news.

Russian citizen Rinat Nasirov and his son were issued Schengen visas by the Lithuanian Embassy in Moscow based on an invitation letter received from Rimantas Šidlauskas, a former diplomat and now director general of the Association of Lithuanian Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts (ALCCIC), Motuzas explained on Tuesday, April 10. He admitted of having dealt with Šidlauskas on business matters long time ago. Lithuania’s law enforcement is carrying out a pre-trial investigation into suspected bribery. Nasirov presumably has given Šidlauskas 3,000 euro for a service in the past, but none of them call it a bribe. Šidlauskas is suspected to have agreed to influence people for Nasirov to get a Schengen visa, in exchange for the money.

BNN offers a summary of past week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Defence; Justice; Legislation; Business; Cyber war; Banking;

DEFENCE: Ministry regrets army’s engagement in election campaign

The Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says he regrets the fact that politicians dragged the army into the election campaign. The minister also expressed his support to Chief of Defence of Lithuania Jonas Vytautas Žukas whose meeting with one of the presidential candidate, Gitanas Nausėda, sparked controversy. Earlier this week, PM Saulius Skvernelis, who’s also running for president, Nausėda violated «the constitutional principle of a country governed by the rule of law by politicizing the army» when he mentioned Žukas as a potential adviser.

JUSTICE: Two more suspects in judicial corruption case

Suspicions have been brought against two more suspects in the high-profile judicial corruption case in Lithuania, the country’s Special Investigation Service said on Wednesday, April 10. One of them is a lawyer’s assistant suspected of influence peddling, bribery and misuse incitement, and the other one is the interested person suspected of influence peddling. All in all, almost 50 people, including eight judges and six lawyers, have been named as suspects in the judicial corruption case.

Presidential candidates may compensate Jews for private property

Lithuania’s three top presidential candidates do not rule out that the state may compensate Jews who lived in Lithuania before World War Two for their lost private property. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, the presidential candidate of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), said the restitution process in Lithuania is over from the point of view of law, but financial compensation for seized Jewish private property could be discussed.

Memorial plaque to Noreika smashed in Vilnius

A controversial memorial plaque to Jonas Noreika, a Lithuanian military officer known as Generolas Vėtra (General Storm), in central Vilnius was smashed into pieces with a sledge hammer on Monday, April 8.  Stanislovas Tomas, who expects to run for a European Parliament seat in next month’s elections, claimed responsibility. The plaque honoured Noreika as a prominent member of the anti-Soviet resistance in Lithuania. Lithuania’s Jewish community has for some time demanded the removal of the plaque honouring Noreika who, as head of Šiauliai County during the Nazi occupation period, signed documents on the establishment of a Jewish ghetto and on arrangements regarding Jewish property.

LEGISLATION: Seimas adopts amendments on no-deal Brexit

The Seimas of Lithuanian on Thursday, April 11, adopted a package of amendments on Lithuania’s preparation for a no-deal Brexit. The amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens were unanimously backed by 88 lawmakers who also adopted amendments to the accompanying laws. The amendments regulate the legal status of British citizens and their family members after Brexit. The amendment will come into force on the day the UK will leave the EU.

Seimas passes children’s rights protection amendments

The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, April 11, amendments to the Law on the Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child. All 71 lawmakers present voted in favour of the amendments. Seventy-one is the minimum quorum for passing a bill. Some lawmakers argue that the amendment will justify a certain level of violence against children, while some family organizations maintain that this will help prevent an unjustified removal of children from their parents.

If citizenship referendum fails, «plan B» will be needed

If the attempt to amend the Constitution regarding dual citizenship during the May 12 referendum fails, Lithuania should prepare for a new one, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said during a sitting of the Commission of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania and the Lithuanian World Community on Wednesday, April 10. Minister Linas Linkevičius underlined that a majority of people are in favour of expanding dual citizenship but that support is insufficient to cross the referendum threshold. The package will take effect in May if signed into law by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

BUSINESS: US pharmaceutical giant to enter Vilnius

US-based pharmaceutical wholesale giant McKesson is setting up a service centre in Vilnius. According to information from the Centre of Registers, McKesson Business Services Lithuania was registered on Wednesday, April 10, with an authorized share capital of 5 million euros and Ildiko By as its CEO. The new company is wholly owned by McKesson’s European unit, Germany-registered McKesson Europe Holdings.

CYBER WAR: Fake news on Defence minister

A false email about Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis allegedly having accepted a bribe of 586,00 US dollar have been sent to several dozen email boxes at the presidential office, the government and the parliament, the Ministry of National Defence said on Thursday, April 11.

BANKING: Revolut seeks security clearance

The British start-up Revolut on Wednesday, April 10, filed an official request to a Lithuanian government commission, asking it to evaluate the company for a third time in terms of its compliance with national security interests. The company decided to turn to the Commission for Coordination of Protection of Objects of Importance to Ensuring National Security in response to discussions in the Lithuanian parliament and also to dispel any doubts over its activity in Lithuania, Revolut said.

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IN PICTURES: Victims of Communist genocide remembered in Latvia

At the Freedom Monument in Latvia on Friday, June 14, there was held a ceremony to honour the victims of the Communist genocide against the people of Latvia. The mass arrests of innocent people were committed on the night from June 13 to 14.

Moscow sees U.S. decision of another thousand troops to Poland as sensitive

The Russian government stated the Russian army was closely tracking U.S. plans to send an additional thousand of its troops Poland as a deputy minister criticised the move as probably «aggressive».

Europol: Risks of Russian money laundering still exist in Baltics

In the Baltic states, there still exist risks for the laundering of money from Russia, said official from European police agency Europol, Pedro Felicio, who works on anti-money laundering measures in the body. He added that the problem is amplified by «zero cooperation from the side of Russia».

Data: 47.3% Latvian restaurants had tax debt over last six months

47.3% of Latvian restaurants and cafes had a tax debt exceeding 150 euros in the past six months, yet the total taxes paid by the sector have surged by 19.87% on year, data by business database Lursoft showed.

Latvian parliament in no rush to discuss Jewish restitution payment of EUR 40 mln

The Latvian Saeima has postponed the discussion of a draft law to compensate the Latvian Jewish community in the amount of 40 million euros for property confiscated by totalitarian powers in the mid-20th century in the then occupied Latvia.

Latvian Supreme Court chairman blamed for misleading PM over new court

Latvian Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs has misrepresented to the Prime Minister the opinion of the Justice Council on the plan of a new economic cases’ court, says Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns. Two members of the council voted in favour of the establishment of the new court, while nine members were against it.

Latvian Health Ministry pushing for fairer competition in medicines’ market

Seeking lower prices of medicines for patients on the Latvian market, the country’s Health Ministry, is working on measures to improve access to medicines.

Approved: Latvian financial watchdog to have new management, more duties

The Latvian parliament has passed amendments to the Law of the Financial and Capital Market Commission aimed at strengthening the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding in the financial and capital market.

Latvia cancels healthcare funding system of «two baskets»

People in Latvia will maintain access to healthcare services in the framework of mandatory health insurance by 2021 just as now, regardless of insurance payments made.

Estonia confirms alcohol U-turn to recover booze tourists from Latvia

As Estonia tries to recover its alcohol customers lost to neighbouring Latvia due to high excise duty, the parliament in Tallinn has passed a 25% cut in excise duty rate.

All Souls’ Day two? Lithuania eyes new national holiday

Members of the Lithuanian Seimas propose making the All Souls’ Day a national holiday in the majority Catholic Baltic country adding one holiday to the calendar in early November.

Lithuania's next President set to take bull by horns in tackling poverty

Lithuania’s president-elect Gitanas Nausėda has touched one issue – social exclusion and high level of income inequality in Lithuanian society – a lot more than all the others.

Latvian aviation can reach level of Sweden in ten years, says Transport Minister

The aviation sector of Latvia could by 2030 reach with increased efforts the level of Sweden in terms of passenger numbers, flights and cargo handling per capita, stated Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

New Riga concert hall, pay rise to cultural workers – priorities of nominee for Latvian Culture Minister

Candidate for the Latvian Minister of Culture, Nauris Puntulis, listed to the construction of a new national concert hall in Riga and a pay rise to public cultural workers as his top priorities in an interview with BNN news portal.

Latvian ex-children’s home closed after violations, alleged crimes by ex-director

The operations of Latvian Family support centre Saulstari have been stopped by the Latvian Welfare Ministry over violations of law, while a criminal case against the former head of the children’s home continues.

Poll: Latvian government work receives historically highest rating: -25

The evaluation of the work of the Latvian government, despite still being negative, has this May reached its historically highest level, according to the results of the Latvian Barometer study prepared by SKDS pollster.

Damage recovery rights planned for Latvian State Audit

A Latvian Saeima committee approved on Wednesday, June 12, amendments to the State Audit Law to grant the institutional watchdog rights to recover damages from responsible persons over violations of law found during inspections.

For Latvia Jewish property restitution, 40-million- euro compensation proposed

To compensate to the Latvian Jewish community for the property that was illegally confiscated during the Holocaust and the Communist totalitarian regime, a 40-million- euro compensation has been proposed by the Development/For! party alliance.

Air quality in port city of Ventspils meets all requirements, municipality confirms

In the Latvian port city of Ventspils, the data of air quality monitoring meet all requirements, BNN learnt from the City Council’s chief expert of Environmental Monitoring, Tatjana Valdmane.

KNAB reprimands Lembergs’ deputy over accepting donation from mobile operator

Latvian Corruption Combatting and Prevention Bureau has reprimanded Guntis Blumbergs, the deputy of Ventspils City Council Chairman Aivars Lembergs, over accepting a donation from mobile operator LMT, according to information on KNAB’s website.

Amid fears of Latvian real estate tax hike, Kariņš pledges no dramatic increase

As the Latvian Justice Ministry has drafted new rules of the cadastre evaluation of real estate, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš promised in an interview with the LNT channel not to permit a dramatic hike in real estate tax.

Russia frees, drops charges against journalist Golunov in «triumph of law»

Russian authorities have freed journalist Ivan Golunov from Latvian-based news outlet Meduza. The authorities also dropped all charges against the man, which, Golunov’s lawyer says, amounts to the triumph of law.

Turnover of Latvia’s State Forests up 20,1%, profits – up 22,8% in Q1

Latvian state forest management company Latvia’s State Forests has in the first quarter of 2019 reached a turnover of 89,751 million euros, which is an increase of 20.1% as compared to the respective period in 2018, data published by the company showed.

New defence lessons in Latvian schools could cost 8 million euros in 2026

As Latvia considers introducing a mandatory national defence lessons in school curriculum, the costs of this novelty could reach 8.16 million euros by 2026, estimates by the Latvian Defence Ministry showed.

Latvian foreign trade turnover up 9.5 in April on year

In April 2019 the foreign trade turnover of Latvia was 9.5% larger than a year ago, of which the exports value of goods was 2.9% and imports value of goods 15.3% higher, show provisional data of the Latvian Central Statistical Bureau.

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