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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, May 13, 2022

May 16 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Lithuanian, Polish defmins to discuss military cooperation
  2. Vilnius hosts Ukrainian Days
  3. 3 irregular migrants prevented from entering Lithuania
  4. Baltics, Poland urge EU institutions to coordinate demining mission in Ukraine
  5. Lithuania reports 162 new COVID-19 cases, one death
  6. Lithuanian, Estonian army chiefs discuss joint defense projects, support to Ukraine
  7. Over 250 academics in Lithuanian sign letter in support of partnership law
  8. Lithuanian defmin against new national defense tax
  9. "Military capabilities" will back demining mission in Ukraine - Lithuanian defmin
  10. Lithuania, Poland will mull joint arms purchases – minister
  11. Lithuania, Poland will mull joint arms purchases – minister (expands)
  12. No universal conscription, specific funding pct in Lithuania's cross-party defense pact
  13. Vilnius backs Sweden's NATO membership, Lithuanian president tells Swedish PM
  14. Failure to agree on 3 pct defense budget weakens Lithuania's cross-party deal – advisor
  15. Japan could become Lithuania's principal partner in Asia, president tells new ambassador
  16. Lithuania, Poland to consider synchronizing military acquisitions – minister  (corrects)
  17. Ukrainian Days Festival in Vilnius offers over 130 events (updates)
  18. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, May 16, 2022

Lithuanian, Polish defmins to discuss military cooperation

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anusauskas will on Friday discuss bilateral military cooperation with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in Vilnius.

The two ministers will discuss the countries’ progress on priority areas of cooperation and practical aspects of further cooperating. They will also sign a joint statement in confirmation of mutual commitment to strengthen further Polish and Lithuania defense cooperation.  

Blaszczak will be accompanied by Commander of the Cyberspace Defense Forces Brigadier General Karol Molenda and 1st Deputy Chief of General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces Lieutenant General Tadeusz Mikutel.

Poland is one of Lithuania's key strategic partners.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 31, Vilnius newsroom


Vilnius hosts Ukrainian Days

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – The Ukrainian Days are starting in Vilnius on Friday, organized to raise awareness of the country and introduce Ukrainians who have fled the war to the Lithuanian capital.

In total, more than 100 different free educational events, concerts, excursions and entertainment events for children are planned. The name of the three-day events, "Vilniushyvanka", was inspired by the traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt "vyshyvanka" which even has its own international day celebrated on May 19.

"We want Ukrainians living in Lithuania to feel at home, so we decided to provide more opportunities for them to get to know Vilnius and Lithuanian culture better. We believe that "Vilniushyvanka" will show the capital's hospitality for Ukrainians, and Vilnius residents and visitors will get to know Ukrainian culture better through art, food and educational program," said Inga Romanovskiene, head of Vilnius' business and tourism development agency Go Vilnius that initiated the series of events.

On Sunday, a picnic for Lithuanian and Ukrainian families is planned in Reformatu Square.

Some 50,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Lithuania since the start of the war in Ukraine. Many of them have settled in Vilnius.

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3 irregular migrants prevented from entering Lithuania

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours prevented three migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service said on Friday morning.

Latvian border guards have recorded no illegal attempts to cross into the country from Belarus over the past 24 hours, and Polish border guards blocked 37 people.

A total of 1,621 people have been prevented from crossing from Belarus into Lithuania at non-designated places so far this year, compared to 2,617 attempts reported by Latvia and 4,670 by Poland.  

Lithuanian border guards sent 8,106 people back to Belarus between last August, when they were given the right to deny entry to irregular migrants, and December. However, the number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

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Baltics, Poland urge EU institutions to coordinate demining mission in Ukraine

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - The Baltic and Polish interior ministers are calling on EU institutions to coordinate the provision of support for demining operations in Ukraine and to provide funding.

Initiated by the interior ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland and sent by Lithuanian Interior Minister Agnes Bilotaite, a joint letter calls on the European Commission to coordinate the provision of support for mine clearance in Ukraine and to assess the possibility of EU funding for this activity, the Lithuanian Interior Ministry said on Friday.

One of the proposed options is to use the ATLAS network of representatives of police tactical units from all 27 EU member states.

The letter is addressed to the European Commission and France, which is now holding the rotating EU presidency, as well as to the incoming Czech presidency. It calls for "early involvement in the process of saving lives in Ukraine" and for the coordination of the mobilization of mine clearance experts to work in the war-torn country.

The Ukrainian authorities estimate that around 50 percent of the country's territory (approximately 300,000 square kilometers) has been affected by military action, putting peaceful civilians returning to liberated areas at high risk from left mines, explosives and unexploded ammunition.

Explosives can be found everywhere, including fields, streets and private homes, and Russian soldiers have also hidden explosives in furniture and even in children's toys.

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Lithuania reports 162 new COVID-19 cases, one death

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 162 new coronavirus infections and one death from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Friday morning. 

Some 145 of the new cases were primary and 17 were secondary. 

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals currently stands at 138, including 11 ICU cases.

The 14-day primary infection rate has dropped further to 97.9 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 10  percent.

The daily count of new infections had been rising at a rapid pace since late 2021, but took a downward turn in early February after hitting a new high of over 14,000 cases.

Some 69.8 percent of the Lithuanian population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab.

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Lithuanian, Estonian army chiefs discuss joint defense projects, support to Ukraine

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - The Lithuanian and Estonian chief of defense met in Vilnius on Friday and discussed bilateral military cooperation, joint projects, the regional security situation, joint exercises, and support to Ukraine.

"We discussed not only ways to bolster our capabilities, but also the NATO defense and deterrence concept in our region. A lot of attention was paid to the issue of support to Ukraine, finding the best solutions both for the supply of arms and ammunition and for the training of troops," Lithuanian Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys was quoted as saying in the army statement released after the meeting.

"I can say that Estonia, with its size and available military capabilities, has been an exemplary supporter of the Ukrainian army," the lieutenant general said.

One of the issues discussed at the meeting with Estonian Chief of Defense Martin Herem was the cooperation between the three Baltic states on the acquisition of the M142 HIMARS multiple rocket launching systems.

Last year, the chiefs of defense of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia agreed to jointly develop a missile defense capability in the Baltic states.

Established in the fall of 2021, a trilateral Baltic working group is now assessing the technical, operational and legal requirements for such a multi-functional missile launcher, carrying out an analysis of possible missile defense architecture in the region, and conducting initial discussions with the US on the possible purchase of such weaponry.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 10, Vilnius newsroom


Over 250 academics in Lithuanian sign letter in support of partnership law

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - Over 250 PhDs, lecturers, researchers and doctoral students working in Lithuania and abroad have signed a letter in support of the Law on Partnership being drafted in the Lithuanian parliament.

Published on Friday, the letter points out that the Lithuanian Constitution obliges the state to ensure democracy, human dignity, the right to private life, freedom of thought, religion, belief and speech, and equality of all persons.

It also emphasizes that, in addition to the freedoms of movement, political and legal liberties, Lithuania also acquired the obligation to respect European values and "not to discriminate against people on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation" when it joined the EU in 2004.

The signees also point out that the partnership institute was introduced in Lithuania's Civil Code in 2001, adding, however, that after more than two decades, legislation on the registration of partnerships has not yet been adopted "for reasons that are difficult to explain".

"Public debate on partnerships has been going on for years, and considerations about the "maturity" of the society and its readiness do not constitute grounds for discriminating against Lithuanian citizens on the basis of their decision to live in a partnership," the letter said.

"We call on members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania to support the Law on Partnership and thus contribute to the creation of a fairer, freer and safer state," the signees urge.

Political scientist Dovile Jakniunaite, a professor at Vilnius University, told BNS the letter was also issued in response to a call by MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius for the academic community to support the amendments that are currently being drawn up. The politician assured BNS last week the bill would be put before the Seimas before the end of the spring session.

"Since we cannot see the draft yet, we have decided to just write in general support for the idea brought forward by the Freedom Party, the idea of the Law on Partnership, an institute that would be normally regulated. We do not have any information about the specific regulation yet", Jakniunaite told BNS.

The initiators of the Law on Partnership vow to submit a new bill after the Seimas rejected an earlier version of the law last spring while it was still in the submission stage.

The Freedom Party is proposing to introduce gender-neutral partnerships, legalizing both heterosexual and same-sex relationships.

The previous partnership bill proposed legalizing both male-female and same-sex partnerships, defined as an officially registered fact of cohabitation of two persons for the purpose of establishing, developing and safeguarding the partners' relationship.

In Lithuania, partnership is not legalized for either heterosexual or same-sex couples.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 10, Vilnius newsroom


Lithuanian defmin against new national defense tax

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says he does not support the idea of introducing a new tax to fund the country's defense budget.

"I do not support the introduction of new taxes, unequivocally, as the country's defense is not a matter of one tax," the minister told reporters in Vilnius on Friday. "All parties decide on the budget, and one tax, it might come and it my go, and we have to fund our defense for a decade ahead. One tax does not solve that."

The idea for such a tax has been put forward by the Lithuanian Business Confederation and is being discussed by politicians.

Currently, Lithuania spends slightly over 2.5 percent of the country's GDP on defense and has recently been raising national defense funding in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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"Military capabilities" will back demining mission in Ukraine - Lithuanian defmin

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - "Military capabilities" would support an EU demining mission in Ukraine, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says.

"The European Union is preparing such a mission and countries are joining it with civilian capabilities. Civilian capabilities are supported by military capabilities as the number of mine clearance professionals in each country is very, very limited," he told a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in Vilnius on Friday.

Earlier this week, Lithuania's Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys said the deployment of mine clearance specialist to Ukraine could be viewed as involvement in the Russian-led war in Ukraine, therefore, it needed a political decision.

Earlier in the day, the Baltic countries and Poland called on the EU to coordinate the provision of support for demining in Ukraine and to allocate EU funds for that.

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Lithuania, Poland will mull joint arms purchases – minister

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - Vilnius and Warsaw will consider joint arms procurements, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said during a joint press conference with his visiting Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in Vilnius.

"The synchronization (of acquisitions - BNS) is not such a simple thing. We are trying to synchronize the purchase of multiple rocket launchers with the Baltic countries. Of course, the minister and I talked about the areas where we can develop our joint effort, including the area of coastal defense, and I think we will consider it," Anusauskas told journalists.

Meanwhile, Blaszczak said he had "somewhat jokingly" suggested that Lithuania should buy Polish air defense systems Piorun.

"It turns out this weapon is very effective, and the Ukrainians are using it and it is designed for air defense", the Polish minister said, adding that Warsaw is open to the idea of procurement synchronization.

"We can coordinate the purchase of other types of weapons. We are close neighbors, so let's take advantage of the fact that our armed forces use the same or similar weapons", Blaszczak said.

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Lithuania, Poland will mull joint arms purchases – minister (expands)

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - Vilnius and Warsaw will consider joint arms procurements, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said during a joint press conference with his visiting Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in Vilnius.

"The synchronization (of acquisitions - BNS) is not such a simple thing. We are trying to synchronize the purchase of multiple rocket launchers with the Baltic countries. Of course, the minister and I talked about the areas where we can develop our joint effort, including the area of coastal defense, and I think we will consider it," Anusauskas told journalists.

Meanwhile, Blaszczak said he had "somewhat jokingly" suggested that Lithuania should buy Polish air defense systems Piorun.

"It turns out this weapon is very effective, and the Ukrainians are using it and it is designed for air defense", the Polish minister said, adding that Warsaw is open to the idea of procurement synchronization.

"We can coordinate the purchase of other types of weapons. We are close neighbors, so let's take advantage of the fact that our armed forces use the same or similar weapons", Blaszczak said.

"Long-term threat"

Both Lithuania and Poland see the need to bolster their military capabilities and to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine, Anusauskas said.

The two ministers say they agreed on closer cooperation in the area of cyber security, as well as on transforming NATO's multinational forces into brigades.

"Both Poland and Lithuania view Russia as a long-term threat to the West," the Lithuanian minister said.

Anusauskas and Blaszczak signed an agreement to continue active defense cooperation.

"The free world must do everything to stop Russia," the Polish minister said, adding that money spent on military acquisitions is not an expense but a security investment.

Blaszczak also voiced his belief that the existing sanctions for Russia must be tightened.

"These sanctions must be very serious not to allow the Kremlin to rebuild its military potential", he said.

Suwalki Corridor

The Polish minister also backed Finland's aspiration to join NATO as it would boost the security of the Baltic states and Poland, limiting Russia's aggressive action and the likelihood of invasion.

"Poland stands ready to ratify the Finnish-NATO treaty without delay," Blaszczak said.

Once Finland joins NATO, cooperation between Warsaw and Vilnius on the defense of the Suwalki Corridor should not change, Anusauskas said.

"Looking at the overall picture in the region, the eastern flank is getting stronger in terms of security", he said.

The Lithuanian minister hopes Finland's membership would be taken into account during the preparation of new defense plans for NATO's eastern flank.

On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sana Marin backed the country's accession to NATO, stressing that Finland's membership would strengthen the country's security and "the whole defense alliance".

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 10, Vilnius newsroom


No universal conscription, specific funding pct in Lithuania's cross-party defense pact

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - A working group on Friday finalized a cross-party agreement on beefing up the country's national security, and differences of opinion led to a decision to replace specific provisions on universal conscription and a specific percentage of defense funding with more abstract ones.

Instead of compulsory universal conscription, the document now states that "in order to significantly increase the number of defense-ready citizens and accelerate the formation of the active reserve, a decision should be taken on a gradual increase in the number of soldiers in compulsory initial military service in line with national defense needs and with parallel development of an alternative military service system".

Although the document does not include commitment to pursue universal conscription, there's emphasis on increasing the number of conscripts, Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, pointed out.

"We already have the government's proposal on the threshold numbers (of troops – BNS) for the next year, and the upper limit is 4,400 conscripts, and if we started post-school conscription, a study carried out by the Ministry of National Defense shows that we would have 6,100 conscripts. In five to seven years, after we invest in infrastructure and train officers to work with conscripts, we will in fact achieve the effect of universal conscription," Kasciunas told BNS, also expressing his regret over the fact that the concept of universal conscription was not included in the document.

Party representatives also failed to agree on a specific percentage that should be earmarked for national defense funding.

Under the bill, the agreement would state that the previous commitment, achieved this year, to allocate 2.5 percent GDP for defense would be maintained, and that "further defense funding should be linked to the needs of the national defense system and the Lithuanian Armed Forces".

This way, a minimum level of funding would be established, leaving the possibility to decide on further need-based funding, Kasciunas said.

President Gitanas Nauseda earlier suggested that the agreement should include a fixed level of 3 percent GDP for national defense.

The draft agreement will now be considered by parliamentary parties' structures for the next two weeks and it is expected to be signed in the first half of June.

Lithuanian politicians are debating a new-party national defense agreement in response to Russia's launched military invasion of Ukraine in late February.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Vilnius backs Sweden's NATO membership, Lithuanian president tells Swedish PM

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson by phone on Friday that Vilnius supports her country's NATO membership. 

"We have always been in favor of closer cooperation between Sweden and the Alliance," Nauseda said in a press release after the conversation. "We welcome and express our full support for your country's plans to join NATO." 

"Every country has the right to decide and choose which security organization it wants to belong to. I assure you that Lithuania will be ready to ratify the accession protocols swiftly," he added.

The two officials discussed Sweden's intention to apply to join the Alliance.

Nauseda underlined that Sweden's membership of NATO would strengthen its own security and that of the region as a whole, and would make a significant contribution to bolstering the Alliance's defense capabilities in the face of the long-term threat posed by Russia. 

Sweden's ruling Social Democrats are expected to make public their opinion on the country's NATO membership on Sunday.

Neighboring Finland's leaders on Thursday expressed support for their country's joining of the Alliance. 

Political and public opinion in Sweden and Finland swung dramatically in favor of NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.  

 

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Failure to agree on 3 pct defense budget weakens Lithuania's cross-party deal – advisor

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Lithuanian parliamentary parties' failure to agree on a 3 percent of GDP defense spending target and universal conscription makes such a national deal much less significant, Kestutis Budrys, President Gitanas Nauseda's chief national security advisor, said on Friday.  

"Failure to agree on the key issues makes the agreement similar to a number of existing strategic documents on national security, such as the National Security Strategy. Its significance is substantially reduced," he told BNS. 

He said it is disappointing that the parties have failed to agree on boosting the defense budget to 3 percent of GDP and on universal subscription.  

Nauseda had suggested setting defense spending at 3 percent of GDP. 

According to the advisor, the president will consistently seek that Lithuania increase both defense funding and the number of conscripts.

"Russia's aggression has highlighted a number of areas where we will need to increase investment: air defense, coastal defense systems, replenishment of ammunition stocks, and others," Budrys said. 

"To implement the principle of total defense, we will have no choice but to move toward universal conscription," he added. 

Earlier on Friday, a parliamentary task group finalized a cross-party agreement on beefing up the country's national security, and differences of opinion led to a decision to replace specific provisions on universal conscription and a specific percentage of defense funding with more abstract ones.

Instead of compulsory universal conscription, the draft document now reads that "in order to significantly increase the number of defense-ready citizens and accelerate the formation of the active reserve, a decision should be taken on a gradual increase in the number of soldiers in compulsory initial military service in line with national defense needs and with parallel development of an alternative military service system".

The draft agreement states that the previous commitment, achieved this year, to allocate 2.5 percent of GDP for defense should be maintained, and that "further defense funding should be linked to the needs of the national defense system and the Lithuanian Armed Forces".

The draft document also calls for creating a cyber force, a new military branch, getting ready to host an allied division of at least 20,000 troops in the country, strengthening the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union, a civilian paramilitary organization, developing national air defense capabilities, drawing up a National Defense Plan by next year, and preparing the population for resistance and armed resistance.

If signed, the agreement should remain in effect until 2030. 

 

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Japan could become Lithuania's principal partner in Asia, president tells new ambassador

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – Japan could become Lithuania's principal partner in Asia, President Gitanas Nauseda said on Friday as he handed letters of credence to Aurelijus Zykas, Vilnius' new ambassador to Tokyo. 

Nauseda and Zykas discussed "the initiative of strategic partnership between Lithuania and Japan and plans to develop political, economic, and cultural cooperation" during their meeting, the president's office said in a press release.  

"We share the same values with Japan and this country could become Lithuania’s principal partner in Asia," it quoted the president as saying. 

Lithuania is strengthening ties with its partners in Asia amid tensions with China over the opening of a Taiwanese representative of five in Vilnius last autumn. 

Nauseda and Zykas also discussed "the boosting of Lithuania's exports, the attraction of Japanese investments, cooperation in life sciences and fintech, and the need to revitalize inbound tourism to Lithuania".

"The discussion also focused on strengthening Lithuania's image. According to Gitanas Nauseda, we need to work not only on the direct image segments such as Lithuanian production, investment attraction and tourism destinations, but also on the cultural image of the country."  

Zykas graduated from Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) and has a degree in politics, communication sciences and arts. He headed the VMU Asia Centre for some time.

He has in the past lived in Japan for four years, and has published a book entitled "Colors and Tastes of Japan", and has compiled a Lithuanian-Japanese dictionary.

 

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Lithuania, Poland to consider synchronizing military acquisitions – minister  (corrects)

(corrects the headline and the lead)

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS - Vilnius and Warsaw will consider synchronization of military acquisitions, including coastal defense, Lithuanian National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said during a joint press conference with his visiting Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak in Vilnius.

"The synchronization (of acquisitions) is not a simple thing. We are trying to synchronize the purchase of multiple rocket launchers with the Baltic countries. Of course, the minister and I talked about the areas where we can develop our joint effort, including the area of coastal defense, and I think we will consider it," Anusauskas told journalists.

Meanwhile, Blaszczak said he had "somewhat jokingly" suggested that Lithuania should buy Polish air defense systems Piorun.

"It turns out this weapon is very effective, and the Ukrainians are using it and it is designed for air defense", the Polish minister said, adding that Warsaw is open to the idea of procurement synchronization.

"We can coordinate the purchase of other types of weapons. We are close neighbors, so let's take advantage of the fact that our armed forces use the same or similar weapons", Blaszczak said.

"Long-term threat"

Both Lithuania and Poland see the need to bolster their military capabilities and to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine, Anusauskas said.

The two ministers say they agreed on closer cooperation in the area of cyber security, as well as on transforming NATO's multinational forces into brigades.

"Both Poland and Lithuania view Russia as a long-term threat to the West," the Lithuanian minister said.

Anusauskas and Blaszczak signed an agreement to continue active defense cooperation.

"The free world must do everything to stop Russia," the Polish minister said, adding that money spent on military acquisitions is not an expense but a security investment.

Blaszczak also voiced his belief that the existing sanctions for Russia must be tightened.

"These sanctions must be very serious not to allow the Kremlin to rebuild its military potential", he said.

Suwalki Corridor

The Polish minister also backed Finland's aspiration to join NATO as it would boost the security of the Baltic states and Poland, limiting Russia's aggressive action and the likelihood of invasion.

"Poland stands ready to ratify the Finnish-NATO treaty without delay," Blaszczak said.

Once Finland joins NATO, cooperation between Warsaw and Vilnius on the defense of the Suwalki Corridor should not change, Anusauskas said.

"Looking at the overall picture in the region, the eastern flank is getting stronger in terms of security", he said.

The Lithuanian minister hopes Finland's membership would be taken into account during the preparation of new defense plans for NATO's eastern flank.

On Thursday, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sana Marin backed the country's accession to NATO, stressing that Finland's membership would strengthen the country's security and "the whole defense alliance".

 

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Ukrainian Days Festival in Vilnius offers over 130 events (updates)

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – The Vilniushyvanka Ukrainian Days Festival got underway on Friday with over 130 events on the program which aims to introduce Lithuanians to Ukrainian culture and traditions and help Ukrainians get to know the Lithuanian capital better.

The three-day program offers a wide range of free educational events, concerts, excursions, cinema screenings, and entertainment events for children. A dozen cafes and restaurants serve Ukrainian cuisine.

The inspiration for the name of the event comes from the traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt called vyshyvanka, according to Go Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital's business and tourism development agency.

Inga Romanovskiene, head of Go Vilnius, told BNS that the idea of Vilniushyvanka emerged after almost 20,000 Ukrainians had already arrived in the Lithuanian capital, realizing that creating a good atmosphere for the war refugees is as important as helping them to deal with day-to-day problems such as finding accommodation and a job. 

"The further we go, the more we want people to feel at home and us Lithuanians to get to know Ukrainian traditions, culture and history better, as well as to present our traditions, history and city to Ukrainians. I think that will be possible after this weekend," she said.

Go Vilnius organized the festival jointly with Vilnius Municipality, the Ukrainian embassy, Ukrainian House and a dozen other partners.

"It is our duty to help all residents of Vilnius who have fled here from the horrors of war," Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius said during the festival's opening event. 

According to the mayor, it is important not only to help people fighting in Ukraine, but also "to help the rest of the world understand what is happening in Ukraine". 

Petro Beshta, Ukraine's ambassador, thanked Vilnius and Lithuania for taking in people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

According to the diplomat, his compatriots who come to Lithuania "do not feel that they are somewhere abroad".

"Ukrainian Days are unique because they make it easier to understand the Ukrainian spirit. Thousands of Ukrainians who live here feel your support. It seems to me that every day that we live here, you live with Ukraine and every day brings us closer to our victory," Beshta said. 

"We are building bridges to the future that will stand for centuries. Together, we are now writing a new European history free from horror and suffering. We will win because we are unbreakable," he said. 

Some 50,000 refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Lithuania since the start of the war. Many of them have settled in Vilnius.

 

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, May 16, 2022

VILNIUS, May 13, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Monday, May 16, 2022:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with NATIONAL DEFENSE MINISTER Arvydas Anusauskas and CHIEF OF DEFENSE Valdemaras Rupsys at 10.30 a.m.

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