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Friday 24.01.2020 | Name days: Krišs, Eglons, Ksenija

Week in Lithuania: Probe in Kaunas’ police underway, teachers hold protest, TezTour in deep trouble

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Kaunas Police chief Darius Žukauskas

Last week in Lithuania, the key news stories were a probe in Kaunas’ police, a teachers’ protest, the trouble of tour operator TezTour and the increase of the Lithuanian defence budget.

Police detain ex-executive of Ukraine’s state company

Lithuania’s police detained in Vilnius the former board chairman of Ukraine’s State Food and Grains Corporation, suspected of large-scale corruption in his country, law enforcement reported on Thursday, October 31. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) did not name the person detained. But Ukraine’s law enforcement launched a search for Petro Vovchuk, the former board chairman of Ukraine’s State Food and Grains Corporation, in December, 2017.

Teachers stage creative protest

 The Lithuanian Education, Science and Sport Minister Algirdas Monkevičius has called a meeting with five trade unions over a collective agreement on Thursday, October 31, while some teachers were staging a protest outside the ministry in Vilnius. Dozens of pumpkins were lit up in front of the ministry building during the symbolic protest action organised by the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union (LSMPS), which has earlier announced plans to go on strike this year. According to LSMPS, the Education Ministry pledged to allocate an additional 118 million euros for teachers’ salaries next year under the collective agreement signed earlier this year, but the government’s 2020 budget bills earmarks only 55.5 million euros in extra funding.

Russian opposition leader Navalny spotted in Vilnius

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny was spotted in Vilnius on Wednesday, October 30, online news site reported, publishing a photo of the man in a restaurant in the Lithuanian capital. The 43-year-old opposition leader and his associates last summer organized protests in Moscow that brought thousands of people into the streets to demand fair elections.

Suspended Kaunas police chief dismayed

Lithuania’s police are carrying out an international investigation into police corruption in the country’s second-largest city of Kaunas, prosecutor Vytautas Kukaitis told a press conference at the Police Department on Wednesday, October 30. Police Commissioner General Linas Pernavas also said during the press conference that Kaunas Police chief Darius Žukauskas would be removed from his position on the grounds of a possible threat to the security of classified information entrusted to him. Žukauskas has rejected the accusations against him as inadequate.

Vilnius school will work under English education program

Lithuania’s government on Wednesday, October 30, allowed a Vilnius-based private British school to work under the English national education program. Up until now, The British School of Vilnius has operated as an establishment of informal education. According to Erika Vikniūtė, the head of the reception department at the school, classes will take place in English, except for the Lithuanian and Spanish language classes, and all teachers have acquired their qualifications at UK higher schools.

Analysts: Lithuania’s economy is slowing

Lithuania’s economy has maintained a stable growth pace, analysts say after the country’s statistics office, Statistics Lithuania, said on Thursday, October 31, that the country’s GDP grew 3.6 per cent over a quarter. But analysts stress that growth is losing its momentum and one could hardly expect such growth in the last quarter of this year or next year. Indre Genytė-Pikčienė, a senior expert from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, said that, contrary to mature euro zone states, consumers in Lithuania still have high expectations, with optimism supported by low inflation and still fast-rising wages.

Lithuania’s Maxima expands business in Bulgaria

Maxima Bulgaria, owned by Maxima Grupė, the largest retailer in the Baltic states, has received an approval by the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) regarding rental of the stores from the local retail chain Triumph in the city of Plovdiv, the country’s second-biggest city. Maxima Bulgaria shortly is going to proceed with the integration of the supermarkets into the T MARKET network. A part of the completely refurbished stores will be opened within a few months.

Tez Tour, partners suspected of document forgery, tax evasion

Aleksandras Sukovas, the head of Tez Tour, one of the largest tour operators in Lithuania, as well as VIP Viesosios Informacijos Partneriai, Aza Tours and several other companies are suspected of document forgery and tax evasion. Investigators from the Financial Crime Investigation Service’s Vilnius regional division have disclosed a group of 13 persons who used over a dozen companies providing tourism services to avoid the taxation of revenue worth at least 2 million euros. The FCIS said earlier that members of the group were suspected of fraud, property misappropriation, the submission of false data on revenue, profit or assets, fraudulent bookkeeping and forgery of accounting documents.

Lithuanian leaders congratulate Turkish president on Republic Day

 Lithuania’s leaders on Tuesday, October 29, congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Republic Day. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda wished Turkey and its people peace, wellbeing and success, and expressed his hope for closer bilateral cooperation between the two nations, his office said in a press release.

Lithuanian Red Cross, government agree to cooperate in crises

The Lithuanian Red Cross Society and the government signed on Monday, October 28, an agreement on cooperation in emergencies, nuclear disasters and crises. This is the first such document detailing the areas of cooperation. Interior Minister Rita Tamašiūnienė said she appreciated the Red Cross’ support for refugees living in Lithuania. Founded in 1919, the Lithuanian Red Cross Society is a member of the Geneva-based IFRC.

Funds to meet 2 per cent defence spending target in 2019 allocated

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, October 30, 19 million euros in additional funding for the Defence Ministry to meet the 2 per cent of GDP defence spending target this year. The government took the step after updated economic growth projections put Lithuania at risk of missing the 2 per cent target for the second year in a row. This will bring this year’s defence budget to around 967 million euros, or 2.03 per cent of GDP. Without the additional funding, the defence budget would have accounted for 1.98 per cent of GDP under the current projections.

 «Nova Lithuania» wins Riga International Film Festival’s award

Director Karolis Kaupinis’ film «Nova Lithuania» won the Riga International Film Festival’s award as the best feature film on Sunday, October 27. The director also received a EUR 2,000 cash prize courtesy of insurance company «Balta». Special mention award went to another Lithuanian film, Aistė Žegulytė’s «Animus Animalis».

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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.

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.

Harmony prepared to approve Riga’s 2020 budget after Burovs’ dismissal

Political party Harmony will not approve Riga municipality’s 2020 budget while Oļegs Burovs remains in charge of the city council, as reported by the be faction’s head Maksims Tolstojs.

British landlords support cards showing rights of EU guest workers after Brexit

After Brexit, which is due to start with February, European Union citizens will have to prove their settled status when looking for flats. Private landlords has supported a change in the Brexit law for EU citizens to have physical cards to prove it.

Survey: 86% believe roads should be among state budget priorities in Latvia

A total of 86% Latvian residents believe maintenance and repair work of roads should be among state budget priorities, according to results of a survey by SKDS.

Vitenbergs: every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy

Investments are the foundation for a free market economy and every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy, said chairman of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee Jānis Vitenbergs.

Kaljulaid in Antarctica: We enable Estonians to work online from anywhere

Visiting Antarctica, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid intends to do her daily work demonstrating the geographical flexibility working online can give. The head of state also pointed to the alarming speed of climate change visible in the far south.

Producer price level in Latvia’s industry declines 1.1% in December

In December 2019 the level of producer prices in the Latvian industry has reduced by 0.4 %. The level of prices of products sold on the domestic market has dropped by 0.2 %, and prices of exported products by – 0.6 %.

Moneyval report: Latvia has generally completed issued recommendations

Moneyval Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Measures of the Council of Europe has upgraded its report regarding Latvia completing the 11 recommendations it was previously presented, according to published information.

Russian energy advantage in Baltics should be stopped, says Energy Commissioner

Baltic power producers are subjected to European Union’s emissions tax, while Russian and Belarusian producers are not despite all competing on the Baltic market. Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson believes that this should be solved.

Employee reduction at Latvian Railway started at the end of 2019

Latvian Railway had commenced reassessment of its functions and operations in the second half of 2019. This is why the reduction of the number of employees commenced gradually at the end of 2019, as reported by LDz representative Ella Pētermane.

Those with voting rights are slow to sign referendum for municipal election regulations

Between 16 and 21 January, a total of 1 137 people with voting rights cast their votes in favour of the referendum intended to introduce changes to regulations that govern snap municipal elections, as reported by Latvian Central Election Commission representative Laura Zaharova.

Video: Thunberg and Trump clash over climate in Davos

«Our emissions have to stop» versus «import our oil and natural gas» – these were the conflicting calls from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. President Donald Trump in the World Economic Forum.

Kariņš: the minister should not ease requirements for State Police chief candidates to appoint someone specific

Easing requirements for candidates wishing to become chief of State Police is unacceptable, and such behaviour creates suspicions that something is wrong with the process, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 22 January.

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