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Week in Lithuania: Russia angry about ex-Soviet officers sentenced of war crimes

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

BNN provides a summary of Lithuania’s trending news stories from the past week.
– A Vilnius court reads verdict to former Soviet defence minister Yazov and more than 60 other Soviet officers guilty of war crimes in Soviet aggression in Lithuania on January 1991;
– Former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was not shortlisted as a candidate for the position of the Council of Europe’s secretary general, Russia is thought to have influenced the decision;
– Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign’s ex-chairman Paul Manfort has reportedly wired large funds via Swedbank’s account in Lithuania. Ostensibly Manafort received almost 1 million US dollars into his account in Cyprus in 2012 from a UK-registered company Inlord Sales.
– President Dalia Grybauskaite opens a new Lithuanian embassy in Rome, meets Pope Francis II.

Ex-Soviet officers sentenced, Russia fumes

The Vilnius Regional Court on Wednesday, March 27, found Dmitry Yazov, former Soviet defence minister, and more than 60 other former Soviet officers guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their involvement in Soviet aggression in Lithuania on January 13, 1991.A three-judge panel found Yazov guilty in absentia and sentenced him to ten years in prison. Vladimir Uskhopchik, the Soviet Army’s former Vilnius garrison commander, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, and Mikhail Golovatov, a former KGB officer, received 12 years. A total of 67 citizens of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were handed prison sentences ranging from four to 14 years.

Only two former Soviet officers, including Yuri Mel, who was detained in Lithuania in 2014, and Vilnius resident Gennady Ivanov, stood trial in person. Following verdicts, Russia said it will seek to prosecute judges who delivered the sentences.

Funds for Trump’s election campaign ex-chief transferred through Lithuania’s Swedbank?

Suspicious funds might have gone to a company linked to Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign’s ex-chairman, via an account at the Swedish bank Swedbank’s account in Lithuania, the news portal 15min.lt news website reported on Wednesday, March 27. According to the website, Manafort received almost 1 million US dollars into his account in Cyprus in 2012 from a UK-registered company Inlord Sales. The latter received the funds into two accounts, one in Lithuania and one in Latvia, from the account of offshore company Vega Holding in Lithuania. The latter account is also linked to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Former PM out of competition, Russia’s influence suspected

Former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was not shortlisted as a candidate for the position of the Council of Europe’s secretary general on Wednesday, March 27. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders and Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejcinovič Burič are on a final list of candidates. Kubilius, a staunch critic of Russia, said the committee’s decision was strongly influenced by Moscow. The Parliamentary Assembly is scheduled to hold a vote in late June.

Presidential candidates eye first debate

Lithuania’s three leading presidential candidates will hold their first debate in Vilnius on Monday, April 8.Economist Gitanas Nausėda, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and MP Ingrida Šimonytė will answer questions, including those from the moderator and the internet audience.

The event is organized by the Baltic News Service (BNS), the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

New embassy in Rome opened, justice served

President Dalia Grybauskaite on Thursday, March 28, officially opened the country’s new embassy in Rome.

The diplomatic representation will be situated in a building Lithuania received as compensation for the interwar Villa Lithuania building nationalized by the Soviets. The new embassy will be situated on the fourth floor of the Palazzo Blumenstihl in central Rome, spanning over an area of 640 square meters. The building is a state-protected piece of architecture.

President meets pope, gives him gifts

President Dalia Grybauskaite, on a visit to Italy on Thursday, March 28, met with Pope Francis in the Vatican. The president thanked the pope for visiting to Lithuania last year and gave him a photo album about Lithuanian freedom fighters and gave him her special personal gift, a jar of honey decorated by children.

After the meeting with the Holy Father, Grybauskaite met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

Tajani steps in, Mobility Package postponed, Lithuania calls it a victory

The decision to return the controversial Mobility Package to the European Parliament’s Transport Committee is good news, Lithuanian Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis told a press conference on Wednesday, March 27. Because of a high number of amendments tabled during the plenary session, EU President Antonio Tajani asked the Transport Committee to filter the amendments by voting on them in the committee before a vote at the next plenary session in April.

Opposition blocks vote on contentious children’s rights protection amendments

Members of the opposition in the Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday, March 26, blocked the adoption of proposed changes to the children’s rights protection system. After a contentious criterion of significant damage to health was included by means of votes of the ruling majority, members of the opposition deliberately did not register for the final vote.

Only 68 lawmakers registered to vote for the whole bill, despite the minimum requirement of 71 MPs, leading to the vote’s postponement.

Air Navigation, Spain’s Indra to join forces

Oro Navigacija (Air Navigation) and Spain’s aviation equipment manufacturer Indra have signed a memorandum of cooperation regarding the establishment of a competence centre in Vilnius, the state-owned air navigation service provider said on Thursday, March 28.

Parliament marks 15th anniversary of NATO membership

The Lithuanian parliament marked on Thursday 15 years since the country joined NATO. NATO member states’ ambassadors and defence attaches and representatives of Lithuania’s Defence Ministry and its Armed Forces have been invited to attend the events to mark the anniversary, the Seimas said.

Two refugees moved to Lithuania from Italy

Two asylum seekers rescued from the charity organization Sea Watch’s ship arrived in Lithuania on Wednesday, March 27, the Migration Department said.They are citizens of Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. They came from Italy where they’ve had been since January.

PM nominates MP Mažeika for environment minister

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has sent a letter to President Dalia Grybauskaite asking her to appoint Kęstutis Mažeika, a Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union lawmaker who is now chairman of the Seimas Committee on Environment, as the country’s environment minister. The position of environment minister has been vacant since early December when Skvernelis sacked Kęstutis Navickas. Energy Ministry Žygimantas Vaičiūnas has since been acting as environment minister.


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