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Week in Lithuania. PM Saulius Skvernelis announces his presidential bid

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Thursday, January 17, on his visit to Rusnė in southwestern Lithuania announced his decision to run for president in May. Skvernelis is due to receive formal backing of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) next week.

Skvernelis, 48, has been leading the Lithuanian government since December, 2016, after previously serving as interior minister and police commissioner general. Public polls show economist Gitanas Nauseda, an independent presidential candidate, and former Finance Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, representing the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, will be Skvernelis’ key rivals. On Thursday, Skvernelis called the two «successors appointed» by President Dalia Grybauskaite. Lithuania will hold the first round of voting in the presidential election on May 12, and the run-off, if necessary, will take place on May 26. Skvernelis said he will take a leave for the election campaign and has no plans to resign.

Government calls on expats in UK to return amid Brexit concerns

The Lithuanian government is calling on Lithuanians living in Britain to come back home amid mounting concerns over a no-deal Brexit. «I don’t want our discussions to be taken as a message that we fear a bigger flow…All people who decide to return to Lithuania, whether there are 100,000 or 200,000 of them, all welcome and we are ready» PM Saulius Skvernelis said at the Cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday, January 16. The number of Lithuanian returnees from the United Kingdom jumped by one-third in 2018 compared with 2017 to 7,600 people, according to official statistics.  Some 12,000 people last year left Lithuania to live in the UK, down from more than 21,000 who did so in 2017.

Lithuania allocates 130,000 euro to CIA prisoner

The Lithuanian government has transferred to a depository account 130,000 euros which the European Court of Human Rights ordered Lithuania to pay to a Saudi Arabian citizen in compensation for arbitrary detention at a secret American prison in Lithuania. Carrying out a pre-trial investigation, Lithuania’s law enforcement has also re-qualified the alleged crime to avoid a statute of limitations, and turned to the United States, asking for diplomatic assurances, Lithuania’s Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius said on Wednesday, January 16. Lithuania has made these steps to implement the Strasbourg court’s ruling. The ECHR ruled last year that Abu Zubaydah, currently at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, was imprisoned in a secret CIA prison in Lithuania in 2005-2006.

Lithuania’s LFGU accepts questionable donations

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union has received the maximum allowed donations from natural persons who are interlinked through companies involved in the handling and transportation of Belarusian fertilizers, a probe by Lithuania’s national broadcaster LRT has revealed. The LRT Investigation Department’ probe shows the party led by Ramūnas Karbauskis has already collected 174,000 euros in donations for its election campaign. 130,000 euros out of it is the party’s own money, and the remaining 44,000 euros have been donated by persons interlinked through their business ties and involved in the handling and transportation of Belarusian fertilizers. Karbauskis told the LRT the names of the donors are not familiar to him, adding that the party does not choose donors, and everyone can donate.

EP gives more money for Ignalina NPP decommissioning

The European Parliament on Thursday, January 17, backed Lithuania’s request to allocate 780 million euros from the European Union new budget for the decommissioning of the Ignalina nuclear power plant. The European Commission previously suggested allocating 552 million euros. Member states are due to decide on the new budget only next year. On Thursday, 569 European lawmakers voted in favour of the proposal to allocate 780 million euros, 17 were against and 32 abstained.

Prosecutors complete probe into Snoras bank

Lithuanian prosecutors completed on Thursday, January 17, their pre-trial investigation in a case in which two former managers and shareholders of Lithuania’s bankrupt bank Snoras are suspected of large-scale misappropriation of assets. Raimondas Baranauskas and Vladimir Antonov are also suspected of large-scale embezzlement, criminal bankruptcy and asset laundering, the Prosecutor General’s Office said. Baranauskas and Antonov are to be tried in absentia as they are hiding in Russia, which has granted them asylum and refuses to provide legal assistance to Lithuania.

Kubilius presented as candidate for CoE Secretary General

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius presented on Wednesday, January 16, Andrius Kubilius to foreign ambassadors residing in Lithuania as the country’s candidate for the position of the Council of Europe’s secretary general. Other contenders for the post are Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, former Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovic Buric.

PM urges Poland to talk about pork imports

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis urged Warsaw on Wednesday, January 16, to talk to Vilnius about its restrictions on Lithuanian pork imports, saying silence will not help solve the problems. Poland last month banned pig meat and pig imports from Lithuania’s zone two, where the disease is present in the wild boar population. The zone covers most of the country’s territory. The two countries’ agriculture ministers were expected to meet in Berlin on Friday, January 18. A final decision on lifting the ban is to be made by the Polish agriculture minister.

Lithuania publishes 2019 military conscription lists

The Lithuanian Armed Forces published this year’s military conscription lists on Wednesday, January 16. The lists, available online at sauktiniai.karys.lt, include the names of 31,068 men aged between 19 and 26 years.  Some 3,827 of them will be called up for a nine-month military service in more than 20 military units. A part of them will undergo two months of basic training at the Lithuanian Great Hetman Jonušas Radvila Training Regiment in Rukla before being sent to their designated units. Young men aged between 18 and 38 years who are not on the lists and women of this age range can volunteer for enlistment. Lithuania reintroduced military conscription in 2015 in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the Baltic Sea region.

Government extends integration period

The government decided on Wednesday, January 16, to extend to five years, from the current three years, the integration period for socially vulnerable Lithuanians and their family members relocated to Lithuania from Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Currently, relocated people with the status of vulnerable persons lose the right to social protection for two years after the three-year period expires, because other legal acts grant this right only to holders of long-term residence permits issued in the European Union.  A foreigner must live in Lithuania for at least five years to be eligible for such a permit. A total of 157 people have moved to Lithuania from crisis-affected regions of Ukraine since 2015.

Business tycoon passes away

Saulius Karosas, 60, an A-tier Lithuanian businessman and the key shareholder of Medicinos Bankas, passed away on Tuesday night, succumbing to cancer. Karosas was also involved in the transportation of energy resources all over the world. Medicinos Bankas was his main business in Lithuania as he owned 89.91 per cent of the bank, with 9.87 per cent belonging to Western Petroleum, a company established by the late businessman. Karosas was born in Lithuania’s second largest city of Kaunas and up until now resided in Switzerland.


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