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Week in Lithuania: Precious historical documents found, hints of a new coalition, China riled

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Last week young Lithuanian historians brought from Russia to Lithuania documents shedding light on the lives of the 1918 Independence Act signatories; before the presidential election on May 12, in a last-ditch effort to attract more supporters, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis was making profuse promises; daily Lietuvos Žinios, one of the oldest newspapers, ceases publishing.

HISTORY: Copies of Lithuanian independence act signatories’ files brought from Russian archives

Copies of student files of Antanas Smetona, Jonas Vileisis, Steponas Kairys and other signatories of Lithuania’s 1918 declaration of independence, and of documents of other public and religious figures have been found in Russian archives and brought to Lithuania, Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) said on Thursday, May 2. Copies of historical documents of signatories, diplomats and clergymen have been brought by two doctoral students at VDU, Viktoras Bilotas and Gediminas Kasparavčius.  Lithuania’s historians were given access to many archives in Russian for the first time.

POLITICS: PM hints at a possible new coalition

Lithuanian parliamentarians were discussing possible scenarios after Saulius Skvernelis on Thursday, May 2, hinted that he may quit as prime minister if he is not elected president, but some politicians interpret his move as an attempt to manipulate voters. Some opposition MPs say Skvernelis, who was delegated to his post by the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), is trying to mobilize his voters in the run-up to the election.

PM unveils his presidential election program

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says he will work with the government to increase the average old-age pension to 400 euros and raise the so-called child benefit to 70 euros by July 2020 if he wins the presidential election on May 12.

PM accepts Minsk’s offer to hold talks

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says he accepts Belarus’ offer to hold talks on a joint system for monitoring the Astravyets nuclear power plant, but admits that he expected Minsk to consider his idea of converting the facility under construction close to the border into a gas-fuelled plant.

Skvernelis’ comment comes after Minsk rejected his plan to convert the Astravyets plant into a facility powered by natural gas.

Lithuania approves humanitarian aid for Venezuela

Lithuania has approved 100,000 euros in humanitarian aid for crisis-stricken Venezuela. The government decided last week to allocate the money from a state reserve fund. The aid will be channelled via the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry told BNS in a response.

Paluckas re-elected chairman of LSDP

Gintautas Paluckas was re-elected as chairman of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. Paluckas received 90 percent of the vote, defeating his only challenger, Algirdas Sysas, with 10 percent. Some 43 percent of the party’s 17,300 members turned out for the election, he said. The party’s congress took place on May 4. The LSDP, the country’s largest political party, currently holds eight seats in the Seimas.

RELATIONS: China denounces MPs’ support for Taiwan

Beijing’s embassy in Vilnius has denounced a call by more than half of Lithuanian parliamentarians for Taiwan to be invited to the World Health Organization’s main annual meeting as «a gross interference in China’s domestic affairs». Eighty members of the 141-seat Seimas from across the political spectrum, including Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga, have signed a letter to the WHO director general, calling for Taiwan to be granted access to the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in May.

MEDIA: Daily ceases publishing

The daily Lietuvos Žinios, one of the oldest newspapers in Lithuania, appeared on newsstands for the last time on Tuesday, April 30. The publisher of Lietuvos Žinios, which also owns the online news sites Lzinios.lt and Jonavosnaujienos.lt and Naujienos, a local newspaper in the central district of Jonava, was liquidated from May 1. Achemos Grupė, the owner of Lietuvos Žinios, says it decided to stop subsidising the company, which has operated at a loss for a long time. Lietuvos Žinios posted a net loss of 963,300 for 2018.

BUSINESS: Haulers mull relocating to Poland

 In fear of new EU restrictions, Lithuanian haulage companies threaten to relocate their businesses to Poland or other countries to be closer to their key markets in Western Europe. Mečislavas Atroškevičius, secretary-general of the national road carriers’ organisation, Linava, said on May 2 that transport companies are looking for ways to protect their businesses if the EU’s new Mobility Package comes into force.

Vilnius-London City flights hailed

The launch of a direct service between Vilnius Airport and London City Airport will give Lithuania another opportunity to attract London-based companies in the context of Brexit, Economy and Innovation Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius said on Tuesday ahead of LOT Polish Airline’s first business flight between Vilnius Airport and London City Airport on Wednesday, May 1. Paris and Munich are also mentioned among the airports that are important for business travellers.

Ignalina NPP lowers final closure cost estimate

Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP), which was shut down almost a decade ago, has revised its total decommissioning cost estimate to 3.316 billion euros, down by some 60 million euros compared with that five years ago. The company said on Monday, April 29 that it had submitted its updated Final Decommissioning Plan to the competent authorities for approval. INPP CEO Audrius Kamiešas said the downward cost revision was mostly due to revised inflation projections.

Soldiersmarch in NATO membership parade in Warsaw

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblison Friday, May 3, watched a military parade marking the 20th anniversary of Poland’s accession to NATO and the May 3 Constitution Day. Sixteen soldiers from the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ Honour Guard Company marched in the parade alongside military formations of Poland and other allies.


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Development of areas along Rail Baltica line will require investments worth EUR 300 million

In order to implement infrastructure development projects along Rail Baltica line in Riga, it will be necessary to secure investments up to EUR 350 million in the next ten-year period, as reported by Riga City Council chairman Oļegs Burovs.

Olainfarm shareholders fail to convene due to lack of quorum

Because of the lack of quorum, the extraordinary meeting of Olainfarm shareholders originally scheduled for Friday, 24 January, did not take place. It was planned to discuss changes to the company council during this meeting, as reported by the company’s representative Ieva Lapiņa-Ennīte.

EY: investors more optimistic about Latvia’s economic competitiveness

Last year, investors’ opinion of the competitiveness of Latvia’s economy improved for nearly all indexes, as reported by EY Latvija representatives.

Bulgaria accuses three Russian citizens for poisoning of arms producer

Three Russian citizens have been charged by Bulgaria over the attempted murder of an arms producer and another two Bulgarians using a poison. One survivor believes there is a link with the poisoning of the Skripals in the United Kingdom.

Ignoring sanctions, Ventspils City Council approves budget created under Lembergs’ watchful eye

In spite of sanctions imposed by USA, Ventspils City Council approved the city’s budget for 2020, which came to be under absolute influence from Aivars Lembergs, on Thursday, 23 January, BNN was told by opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis.

Estonia eyes one-year prison sentence for first-time drunk drivers

Estonian government ministers have proposed harsher sanctions for drunk driving. Their initiative comes after three people got killed in a crash, where a heavily intoxicated driver was involved.

Latvian residents trust National Armed Forces the most and the Saeima the least

Latvia’s residents trust the country’s National Armed Forces and the president the most and the Saeima the least, according to the survey performed by Latvian National Security Academy’s Security and Strategic Research Centre.

In China, coronavirus claims more lives as transport limitations put in place

The Chinese outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus has reached the death toll of 26 people, meanwhile, authorities are trying to keep it from spreading introducing transport movement limitations in at least 10 cities.

Information about VDD new office building’s construction costs is a state secret

Although some media have mentioned different amounts of money the construction of a new office for the State Security Service at the location of former Marss cycling track may cost, the service reports that this information is considered a state secret.

Kariņš: Latvia is no longer the younger brother – our country’s voice is heard

Latvia is no longer the younger brother on the international arena – our country is heard and its opinion is taken seriously, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš at annual foreign policy debates on Thursday, 23 January.

Poland passes law on limiting public actions, statements of judges

The Polish Sejm has passed a draft law that sets forth limiting the say of judges over justice appointments, court reform and politics. The limitations have been widely criticised abroad.

Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

The situation with Ventspils Freeport is gradually becoming more relaxed. On top of that, banks once again service port terminals there, as Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits affirmed in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 23 January.

Aivars Lembergs picks ex-prime minister’s freelance advisor Grudulis as his lawyer for debates

The suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is also accused of committing serious crimes and is under US sanctions, has picked once the prime minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis’ freelance advisor Māris Grudulis as his lawyer for debates in court, as was announced in court on Thursday, 23 January.

What is Lithuanian President’s main reason to skip Jerusalem Holocaust forum?

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has unexpectedly flip-flopped on where and how to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. First, he said he will attend the commemoration in Jerusalem, but then changed his mind to pay homage to the Jewish victims in Auschwitz, in Poland. The reason? Well, there is no clear official reason for that – President’s Office did not provide one.

Audit: Rail Baltica slowed by poor risk management and slow progress with municipalities

Delays and cost increase of Rail Baltica project is heavily affected by no risk management and no strategy, as well as slow progress in cooperation with municipalities and passive alienation of properties, Latvian State Audit concluded in its latest report.

China stops public transport in two cities over coronavirus

In China, a new strain of coronavirus has claimed the lives of 17 people. To keep it form spreading, local authorities have stopped the public transport to and from the cities of Wuhan and Huanggang.

BNN investigation | Rebenoks and Krieķis may have plans to return to Olainfarm board despite ties to serious crimes

Ex-Olainfarm officials Mārtiņš Krieķis and Pāvels Rebenoks, the latter also serving as Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s advisor, may return to the company’s board to, possibly, continue walking «well-travelled path» paved with non-transparent deals, according to information available to BNN.

In Estonia, forgetting to register child’s name can lead to municipality choosing it

Estonian law obliges parents to register the name of their child in a month’s time after giving birth. In the unlikely case of them being late, the law opens right to a local municipality to choose it.

Change of concept? Viesturs Kairišs becomes Dailes Theatre’s artistic director

Dailes Theatre’s board member Juris Žagars has picked Viesturs Kairišs as the theatre’s new artistic director, as journalists were told by Žagars on Thursday, 23 January.

Lukashenko: Belarus needs to diversify its oil imports, introducing Baltic supplies

As Minsk and Moscow are in talks to solve a dispute over the continuation of oil imports from Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Russian supplies could be cut to 30-40% of Belarus’ total imports.

Minister does not exclude possibility of number of municipalities in Latvia increasing

The Administrative Territorial Reform offers reducing the number of municipalities to 39 in Latvia. Still, it is possible there may be one or two more, said Latvian Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Thursday, 23 January.

Thirteen people die from influenza in Latvia

Three people died from influenza in Latvia last week, increasing the number of victims to 13 for this year’s flu season, according to monitoring data of acute upper respiratory tract infections published by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

Lithuania tries to halt haulage firm exodus to Poland with new tax

Lithuania is introducing a new «exit tax» to keep road haulage firms from relocating to other European Union member states. The firms say that other ways of moving business abroad will be used.

Corruption fighters: corruption perception indexes decline in Latvia in 2019

Latvia’s positions had worsened slightly in 2019 in global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International composed Corruption Perception Index.

UK parliament passes draft Brexit law

In London, the draft law on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has been finally passed by the Houses of Parliament after years of inability of British legislators to decide on their preferred way out of the bloc.


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