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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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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 15min.lt.

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.

Audit: planning problems impede growth of Latvia’s defensive capabilities

Problems with planning are the main reason why Latvia’s defensive capabilities are developing slowly, as concluded by State Audit.

Minister: increase of doctors’ wages is a priority over all other promises

First it is necessary to increase doctors’ wages. Then it will be possible to tackle all other promises, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele during a meeting of the Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee on Wednesday, 14 August.

Is Latvia becoming more hospitable? Tourist upturn observed

A total of 781.1 thousand visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in Q2 2019, which is 1.1 % more than in Q2 2018.

Village in Russia to be evacuated following nuclear accident

Russian authorities have announced evacuation of Nenoksa village, as it is the closest to the military area where a nuclear accident recently happened. This may mean the situation there is far more dangerous than initially reported, as reported by New York Times.

Lithuania’s president says he sees no reason to meet with Putin

A meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is unlikely and would be pointless, said Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda in an interview to public media LRT.

Shadow of political dealings over SRS. ZZS people – Knoks, Podiņš, Vaivars

Although the State Revenue Service has never had a truly spotless reputation, there is now a much bigger and darker shadow hovering over the service’s director general Ieva Jaunzeme. Serious concerns have been voiced in regards to possible employment of «chosen people» in important posts, which allows them to either halt or push criminal processes forward in order to make life difficult for their political opponents, pretending to fight the good fight while, in reality, realizing some «political hit».

Prime Minister: 2020 budget will be Latvia’s largest one yet

The next year’s budget will be the largest in the history of Latvia and will exceed EUR 10 billion, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 14 August.

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