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Wednesday 16.01.2019 | Name days: Lida, Lidija

Week in Lithuania. Prosecutors mull probe into Russia sanction violations

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Lithuanian prosecutors announced this week they were mulling launching a pre-trial investigation in to the purchase by around ten companies of fertilizers from Russia’s Minudobreniya, which allegedly violates the EU’s sanctions against Russia.

Agrokoncernas, a Lithuanian business group owned by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, which buys fertilizers from Minudobreniya, said earlier in the day it had asked the country’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis to evaluate Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius’ actions after he initiated the decision several weeks ago to turn to prosecutors over the business group’s alleged ties with Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg. Agrokoncernas believes the foreign minister’s actions are politicised, are damaging the company’s reputation as the company has been selectively focused on, despite more Lithuanian companies doing business with Minudobreniya.

The ruling LFGU nominates economy minister for Vilnius mayor

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union’s Vilnius branch has nominated its chairman and the country’s Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius for Vilnius mayor. Sinkevičius accepted the nomination. The LFGU does not have representatives on the Vilnius City Council at the moment as the party received 0.72 per cent of votes in Vilnius during the 2015 election. Incumbent Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has already announced his bid for re-election, and he will vie against former Vilnius Mayor Artūras Zuokas, Labour Party leader Viktor Uspaskich, MP Dainius Kreivys, liberal Martynas Nagevičius, social democrat Gintautas Paluckas and several others. Lithuania will hold direct mayoral and municipal elections on March 3.

Vilnius held National Prayer Breakfast

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs held the 18th National Prayer Breakfast on Friday, December 14. The participants included Vilnius Archbishop Gintaras Grušas and speakers included Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian politician and board chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova, MP Emanuelis Zingeris, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Representatives of religious communities, politicians, businessmen and public figures traditionally attended the National Prayer Breakfast.

PM finds it hard to find new education minister

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says he finds it hard to find a new education and science minister, therefore, he plans to present just two, not three, new ministerial candidates next year. Therefore, he said, he would present only candidates for the positions of culture and environment ministers next week, and would present three candidates if a candidate for education minister was found by then. Education and Science Minister Jurgita Petrauskienė was sacked over the course of the protests. President Dalia Grybauskaitė also dismissed Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson as culture minister and Kęstutis Navickas as environment minister, upon the prime minister’s submission.

LFGU leader: President ought to take her share of responsibility

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has to take her share of responsibility for mistakes in a new pay model for teachers because she signed the legislation on introducing this system, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) said on Thursday, December 13. In an interview aired by LRT TV on Wednesday, December 12, Grybauskaitė accused the ruling bloc of muddling through their reforms, including the controversial new pay system for teachers, instead of communicating with experts and members of the public and listening to their comments and criticism. Some teachers across Lithuanian went on strike on November 12 to protest against the new pay system in place since September and to demand higher wages. Several tens of teachers have been spending nights inside the Education and Science Ministry building since November 28.

Court upholds MG Baltic’s right to sue VSD

The Lithuanian Supreme Court on Wednesday, December 12, upheld MG Baltic’s right to take legal action against the State Security Department, or VSD, over the intelligence agency’s statements about the business group. The panel of judges ordered the Vilnius District Court to reconsider its decision not to accept MG Baltic’s lawsuit asking for certain information provided by VSD in a report to lawmakers to be refuted as untrue and damaging the group’s business reputation. Lower-instance courts refused to accept the lawsuit, saying the Law on Intelligence, rather than the general rules of the Civil Code, had to be applied in this case. The intelligence body’s report became a key document in last spring’s parliamentary investigation into interest groups’ inappropriate influence on the political system and public authorities.

PM sees no grounds for health minister to step down

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis does not think that Aurelijus Veryga should resign as health minister following the ruling by an ethics watchdog that he has placed himself in a conflict of interest situation. Veryga has acknowledged he made a mistake when he allocated funding to the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences he previously worked for. He says the mistake was formal and human. Veryga approved the allocation of 32,000 euros for the university’s alcohol damage project in October, 2017, the Chief Official Ethics Commission said on Wednesday, December 12. Veryga worked for the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences until November, 2016 before becoming a minister.

Government to criminalise unlawful support to politicians

The government proposed on Wednesday, December 12, that the Seimas adopt amendments to the Criminal Code to criminalise major unlawful support to political parties, public election committees and politicians. Both politicians and their supporters would be subject to criminal liability for prohibited funding amounting to over 19,000 euros. The offense would be punishable by a fine, by restriction of liberty, by arrest or by a custodial sentence of up to four years. The amendments are part of measures to implement the recommendations of last spring’s parliamentary investigation into businesses’ unlawful influence on political processes.

Ex-councillor to be questioned in partisan defamation case

Viačeslav Titov, a former councillor in the Lithuanian western city of Klaipeda, was questioned on Wednesday, December 12, by local prosecutors over the defamation of the memory of Lithuania’s partisan leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas. Lithuania’s law enforcement is carrying an investigation into Titov’s false statements that 8,000 peaceful civilians were killed at the initiative of Ramanauskas-Vanagas during the anti-Soviet resistance movement. Several weeks ago, Lithuania’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled that Titov breached his oath with such statement. The politician did not wait for an impeachment vote and resigned.

Vilnius mayor turns to VSD over Moscow House

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has turned to Lithuania’s State Security Department over the construction of the Moscow House in the Lithuanian capital, asking the institution to evaluate its possible threat to national security, the Vilnius authorities said on Tuesday, December 11. The decision to turn to VSD was made after Moscow’s Culture and Business Center – Moscow House asked the Vilnius authorities to coordinate new project proposals and present them to the public. Upon receipt of VSD‘s conclusion, the Vilnius mayor will decide on further actions against the Moscow House. In December, 2016, a court satisfied a request from Lithuania’s State Territorial Planning and Construction Inspectorate to withdraw the permit, issued back in 2008, for the construction of the Moscow House.

Jewish Community leader re-elected lawfully

Faina Kukliansky was lawfully re-elected chairperson of the Jewish Community of Lithuania in May, 2017, a Vilnius court ruled on Tuesday, December 11, after hearing an appeal against her re-election. A panel of three Vilnius Regional Court judges rejected the district court’s ruling that deemed Kukliansky’s re-election unlawful. The dispute broke out after the decision to give all regional Jewish communities one vote in the election of the national leader. Previously, regional communities had votes allocated in proportion to the number of their members, with an organization having 500 members given five votes, or 20 votes if it had 2,000 members.

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