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Week in Lithuania: PM wants more control on intelligence services, court appointed for a high-profile spying case

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Lithuania, week, news, Saulius Skvernelis, Russia, spying, Klaipeda, MG Baltic, court, trial, Kęstutis Mažeika, recommended

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis

In Lithuania, the top news stories last week were Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis seeking more control on intelligence services, the choice of a court in a high-profile spying case and action against sports manipulation.

PM’s suggestions on supervision of intelligence services

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis proposed to the Parliament to adopt amendments enacting more control of intelligence services and law enforcement institutions carrying out criminal intelligence. Earlier this week, the prime minister set up a working group to consider the Seimas ombudsman’s recommendations for the law to provide for the maximum terms of application of intelligence methods, the possibility to turn to courts and appeal against intelligence officers’ actions and to ensure effective external control. There are two intelligence services in Lithuania, including the State Security Department and criminal intelligence, the Second Investigation Department under the Ministry of National Defence.

Institutions join forces against sports manipulation

Six Lithuanian institutions signed on Thursday, March 5, a renewed agreement to cooperate in combating sports manipulation. The agreement will help Lithuania to prepare for ratification of the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, also known as the Macolin Convention, according to the Education, Science and Sport Ministry. Police are currently carrying out three pre-trial investigations into suspected manipulation of sports results, she said.

Intelligence chief denies pressure on whistleblower

Darius Jauniškis, the director of the State Security Department (SSD), says that his deputy, Remigijus Bridikis, has met with the whistleblower behind allegations that the intelligence agency gathered information on some presidential candidates, but insisted that that was not pressure. The whistleblower last year informed Vytautas Bakas, who then headed the parliament’s Committee on National Security and Defence (CNSD), that, acting on orders from the top SSD officials, he collected in 2018-2019 information on people in the inner circle of Gitanas Nausėda, then a presidential candidate, and Lithuania’s ex-foreign minister and long-standing diplomat Vygaudas Ušackas. The whistleblower said he believed that the intelligence chiefs could have thus violated the principles of legitimacy and political neutrality. SSD insists that it did not collect information on these people.

Lithuanian PM’s adviser steps down

Skirmantas Malinauskas stepped down as an adviser to Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis.   Malinauskas told reporters on Thursday, March 5, he decided to resign following a row with Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga who asked Skvernelis to remove his adviser from the government’s communication group on the coronavirus situation. Veryga, who heads the State Emergency Operations Center set up last week to deal with the coronavirus threat, says he has asked Skvernelis to remove Malinauskas as head of the coronavirus information team because the adviser failed to coordinate communication with the health minister.

President meets Belarus’ Nobel laureate Alexievich

President Gitanas Nausėda met with Nobel Prize-winning Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich in Vilnius on Thursday, March 5. The winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature was in Vilnius for an international conference on collective trauma. The writer, who lives in Minsk, is the author of Chernobyl Prayer, a book about the consequences of the 1986 nuclear disaster, and a critic of the Astravyets nuclear power plant.

Ministry wants homes to be part of centralized sewage networks by 2023

As Lithuania is facing the risk of being fined for failure to connect all city and town residents to the centralized sewage networks, the country’s Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika vowed on Wednesday, March 4, to do that by 2023 and thus meet the EU requirement. Mažeika says the EU directive’s requirement should be transposed by 2023, adding that around 19,000 people have not been connected to the centralized sewage network so far and they should be connected by 2023. The EC initiated the infringement procedure against Lithuania in February, 2017, and in January, 2019, the Commission urged Lithuania to eliminate the existing wastewater management drawbacks.

PM will not nominate new economy minister candidate

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday, March 4, he will not nominate a new candidate for economy and innovation minister, and the Ministries of Economy and Innovation and Energy will be merged at the end of this government’s term in the fall. Skvernelis decided not to nominate a new candidate for economy minister after President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the nomination of the prime minister’s adviser Lukas Savickas.

Court halts hearing of MG Baltic’s reputation lawsuit

Vilnius City District Court on Wednesday, March 4, decided to halt the hearing of the MG Baltic business group’s lawsuit on the compensation of damage to its business reputation until the ongoing criminal political corruption case is heard. The decision was made in response to a request of the State Security Department which is the defendant in this case.

Klaipeda councillor questioned as special witness

Ela Andrejeva, a councillor in the Lithuanian western city of Klaipeda, has been questioned as a special witness in a spying case. She’s giving evidence but denies having acted against Lithuania, her lawyer said on Wednesday, March 4. The status of a special witness is granted when a person is questioned on their actions but there’s a lack of evidence to bring any allegations. Andrejeva represents the public election committee Titov and Justice. She replaced Titov who lost the position following his conviction for defaming Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of the leaders of Lithuania’s anti-Soviet partisan resistance.

Siauliai court to hear Paleckis’ spying case

The regional court of Lithuania’s northern city of Siauliai will hear the case of Algirdas Paleckis, a Lithuanian politician suspected of spying for Russia, the country’s Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday, March 3. The Prosecutor General’s Office said the crimes were committed between February, 2017 and October, 2018, when the defendant, acting in an organized group with an employee of Russian intelligence and other Russian citizens, allegedly collected information of interest for Russian intelligence in Lithuania for monetary and other remuneration. Prosecutors say the defendants were also tasked to collect information on officers and judges who worked on the January 13 case in Lithuania, and also collect information on other cased related to Russia’s aggression in Lithuania in 1990-1991.


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Budget revenue in Latvia approximately 7% behind plan in March

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Global number of COVID-19 cases exceeds one million

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Latvia prohibits exports of medicines needed during state of emergency

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COVID-19 prompts Latvian government to involve army in border patrol with Belarus

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COVID-19 update in Baltics. 458 cases in Latvia, 649 in Lithuania, 858 in Estonia

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