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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 6, 2022

Dec 07 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Zelensky awarded Lithuania's 2022 Freedom Prize
  2. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 6, 2022
  3. Lithuanian parlt to be addressed by Stefanchuk, to vote on Freedom Prize for Zelensky 
  4. Lithuanian PM, Pennsylvania National Guard commander discuss further cooperation
  5. Dismantling of Soviet sculptures starts at Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius (updates)
  6. Lithuanian president to attend EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana
  7. Lithuania reports 860 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  8. US envoy welcomes Lithuanian govt's Jewish private property restitution proposal 
  9. No talks with Moscow possible in current situation – Lithuanian adviser
  10. You started fighting Russian totalitarianism, we're finishing it – Stefanchuk in Vilnius
  11. Lithuania's support to Ukraine totals EUR 660 mln, including EUR 240 mln in military aid
  12. Ex-Lithuanian PM Slezevicius dies
  13. Vilnius starts dismantling Soviet sculptures despite UN committee warnings (updates)
  14. EU to fund up to 85 pct of Rail Baltica key for regional defense – Trautmann
  15.  Ban on oil shipments via Lithuania to Kaliningrad takes effect (corrects)
  16. Kazakhstan needs Europe, EU needs Kazakhstan – Lithuania's Landsbergis
  17. No-confidence motion against Lithuanian MP Majauskas fails as ruling bloc snubs vote 
  18. Majauskas steps down as chair of Lithuanian parlt budget committee 
  19. Lithuanian supreme court rejects ex-judge Venckiene's appeal 
  20. We count on Western Balkan countries to back EU foreign policy – Lithuania's Nauseda
  21. We count on Western Balkan countries to back EU foreign policy – Lithuania's Nauseda (expands)
  22. TV Rain won’t be accessible in Lithuania as well after losing Latvian license
  23. Mayor of Lithuania's Siauliai suspected of abuse of office
  24. Russian Embassy calls removal of Soviet sculptures in Vilnius "barbaric mockery"

Zelensky awarded Lithuania's 2022 Freedom Prize

VILNIUS, Dec 05, BNS – Lithuania has awarded this year's Freedom Prize to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as his country is fighting Russia's invasion.

"Today, Ukraine is a European democracy forced to fight for the survival of its territory, culture and people, as well as for the freedom of all of us. That is why the Freedom Prize Commission has proposed awarding this year's Freedom Prize to the president of Ukraine for his and the entire Ukrainian nation's merits in their struggle for independence, freedom and democracy in the face of Russia's military aggression," Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen said on Tuesday.

"As Ukraine's president, he has been at the forefront of this fight for freedom, inspiring millions of people in Ukraine through his personal leadership and example to resist and not to surrender, and having also united the entire global community against the criminal Putin regime," she said.

113 Lithuanian lawmakers voted in favor of the decision on Tuesday, with no votes against or abstentions.

The Freedom Prize was established by the Lithuanian parliament in 2011 to honor "individuals and organizations for their achievements in and contribution to the defense of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Eastern and Central Europe".

The prize, which amounts to 5,000 euros, is presented every year on January 13, when Lithuania marks the Day of the Defenders of Freedom.

The first Freedom Prize was awarded in 2011 to Sergei Kovalev, a Russian fighter for freedom and democracy and defender of human rights.

The list of awardees also includes Antanas Terleckas, a former political prisoner and founder of the political organization Lithuanian Freedom League; Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, the founder and editor of the underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania; Adam Michnik, a Polish dissident and editor-in-chief of the daily Gazeta Wyborcza; former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus; Lithuania's first post-independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis; dissident nun Nijole Sadunaite; seven partisans who fought against Soviet occupation – Jonas Ceponis, Jonas Kadzionis, Juozas Jakavonis, Bronislavas Juospaitis, Vytautas Balsys, Jonas Abukauskas and Juozas Mocys, and Albinas Kentra, a chronicler of the Lithuanian Atgimimas (Revival) movement.

The award went to Belarus' democratic opposition in 2020 and to three contributors to the Soviet-era underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania – Gerarda Suliauskaite, Bernadeta Maliskaite and Jonas Boruta – in 2021.

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 6, 2022

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 6, 2022:

PRSIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to pay a working visit to Tirana, Albania, to attend the EU-Western Balkans Summit.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to meet with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk at 9.30 a.m.; to attend a meeting of the Presidium of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments at 6 p.m.; to attend a virtual meeting with Robert Kelly Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee., at 7 p.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to continue her working visit to the US.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to pay a working visit to Kazakhstan.

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Lithuanian parlt to be addressed by Stefanchuk, to vote on Freedom Prize for Zelensky 

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, is expected to address the Lithuanian parliament as part of his visit to Vilnius on Tuesday. 

The Seimas is also scheduled to vote on Tuesday on awarding Lithuania's 2022 Freedom Prize to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Paule Kuzmickiene, chairwoman of the parliamentary commission that has nominated Zelensky for this year's Freedom Prize, has said that Ukraine's struggle for freedom "is world history in the making" and that its president "has taken on the heavy burden of leading this struggle". 

The Freedom Prize would be a token of both gratitude and support for Zelensky, whose country has been fighting against Russia's invasion for more than nine months now, according to the MP.

The prize is planned to be presented to the Ukrainian president on the Day of the Defenders of Freedom on January 13, 2023.

Stefanchuk is in Vilnius for the 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments. He is the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to visit Lithuania since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24. 

Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate, is also expected to take part in the session.  

 

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Lithuanian PM, Pennsylvania National Guard commander discuss further cooperation

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, on a working visit to the United States, met with Major General Mark J. Schindler, adjutant general of the Pennsylvania National Guard (PANG), to discuss further cooperation between the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the PANG.

"The prime minister underlined that "Lithuania highly appreciates the presence of US troops in the region thus enhancing its security, which is especially important at this time, when Russia continues waging its brutal war in Ukraine and terrorizing its civilians," the government said in a press release on Tuesday.  

"At the same time, Lithuania is investing in improving the host country's infrastructure and its own defense capabilities."

Simonyte and Schindler also discussed the PANG's "contribution to the improvement of Lithuania's military capabilities by training specialists, participating in joint trainings and exercises, and cooperating in the field of cyber security".

"I hope that next year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the partnership between Lithuania and the Pennsylvania National Guard, we will continue and expand this active and mutually beneficial cooperation," the prime minister said.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces and the PANG have been cooperating since 1993, and participated together in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012.

Cooperation is also taking place in the areas of improving military infrastructure and training special operations forces in Lithuania, according to the press release.

 

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Dismantling of Soviet sculptures starts at Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius (updates)

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS - Workers are starting to dismantle the monument to Soviet World War Two soldiers at Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius on Tuesday. 

Vilnius' municipality has said that the granite statues of Soviet soldiers will be carefully removed to avoid damaging them, with the work expected to be completed within a few weeks.

Lithuania's Justice Ministry said last month that the UN Human Rights Committee had upheld interim measures for the protection of the Soviet sculptures at Antakalnis Cemetery, thus formally preventing the Vilnius authorities from removing them for the time being.

The decision was made in response to a request from several individuals calling themselves "ethnic Russians", including Kazimieras Juraitis, who is also involved in the controversial case of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood, an association founded by Algirdas Paleckis, as well as by Dmitrij Glazkov, Tatiana Brandt and Anastasija Brandt. 

However, the sculptures will be removed despite the UN committee's decision.

The Justice Ministry and municipal officials say that the committee was misled by the arguments of the petitioners who claim that the Soviet-era monument will be desecrated and the nearby remains reburied. However, there is no intention to do so, according to the authorities.

The municipality is planning to hand the removed sculptures over to the National Museum of Lithuania.

 

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Lithuanian president to attend EU-Western Balkans summit in Tirana

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Tuesday is leaving for Albania's capital of Tirana to take part in a summit between EU and Western Balkan leaders. 

The meeting is also to be attended by representatives from the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the World Bank and the Regional Cooperation Council. 

"The focus will be on strengthening political and economic cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkans, enhancing joint resilience and security in the context of Russia's war in Ukraine, in particular in the fight against cyber and hybrid threats," Nauseda's office said in a press release on Monday. 

The leaders will also discuss the management of illegal migration flows, the fight against terrorism and the prospects for the Western Balkans' European integration, it said.

 

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Lithuania reports 860 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 860 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Tuesday morning.

Of the new cases, 644 were primary, 199 were secondary and 17 were tertiary. 

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 now stands at 156, including eight ICU cases.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen further to 174.3 cases per 100,000 people, but the seven-day percentage of positive tests has edged down to 20.2 percent.

he daily number of new coronavirus cases remains well below the peak of over 14,000 reached in early February.

More than 1.2 million people in Lithuania have tested positive with COVID-19 at least once.

Some 70 percent of the Lithuanian population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far.

 

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US envoy welcomes Lithuanian govt's Jewish private property restitution proposal 

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Ellen Germain, special envoy for Holocaust issues at the US Department of State, welcomed the Lithuanian government's proposal to compensate Jews for lost private property as she visited Vilnius on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said.  

"Germain welcomed the draft law submitted by the Lithuanian government to the Seimas, which aims to address the outstanding issues of the unreturned property of Jewish persons who lived in Lithuania before or during World War Two, stressing that ensuring justice for Holocaust survivors and their heirs is an important issue of human rights and the rule of law," it said in a press release. 

The bill calls for transferring 37 million euros to the Good Will Foundation in 2024 to 2030 as compensation for expropriated private Jewish property. The foundation would pay out the money to property owners and their heirs based on the claims received.

Under the existing law adopted in 2011, Lithuania committed itself to paying 37 million euros over a decade in compensation for seized Jewish communal property. The process should be completed by next March.

 

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No talks with Moscow possible in current situation – Lithuanian adviser

VILNIUS, Dec 05, BNS - Asta Skaisgiryte, chief foreign policy adviser to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, says she doesn’t see any possibility to sit down at the negotiating table with Russia right now.

"At the moment, it’s not a situation where we could talk with Moscow. To talk with Moscow, Moscow needs to make certain steps to show that the Kremlin has realized that it made a mistake by getting involved in this war and that it would withdraw its troops from Ukraine in order to rectify it," Skaisgiryte told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

"Lithuania is, first of all, talking with Ukraine. I cannot see getting back to talks without the change in the existing current circumstances," she noted.

Last Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin had their first phone conversation time since mid-September. Scholz's office said the hour-long conversation focused on Russia's war against Ukraine, which has been going on since February, and its consequences.

The German chancellor also called on the Russian president to find a diplomatic solution as soon as possible, including the withdrawal of Russian troops.

"We have to understand that President Gitanas Nauseda said that if we talk about negotiations with Russia, well, peace negotiations, such negotiations can only take place on Ukrainian terms and under the Ukrainian timeframe," the adviser said.

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You started fighting Russian totalitarianism, we're finishing it – Stefanchuk in Vilnius

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS - Lithuania started the fight against Russian totalitarianism three decades ago and Ukraine is now finishing it on the battlefield, Chairman of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk said in Vilnius on Tuesday.

"Once upon a time, you started the fight against Russian totalitarianism and destroyed the Soviet Union, and now we are finishing the fight on the battlefield, literally, defending ourselves against a large-scale, unprovoked armed aggression of Russia against Ukraine," Stefanchuk said at the Lithuanian parliament.

He is the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to visit Lithuania since the start of the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24. The Ukrainian politician will attend the 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments in Vilnius.

"By occupying part of Ukraine's territory, by systematically destroying civilian and energy infrastructure, by torturing and killing peaceful Ukrainian citizens, Russia is once again showing the whole world that not only does it not respect the right of peoples to self-determination, not only does it not value human life and freedom, but it threatens its peaceful neighbors every minute of every day. (...) Russia is openly trying to intimidate everyone," the chairman o of the Verkhovna Rada said.

And democracies can respond to this with solidarity, determination and steadfastness, he said.

"We will heroically defend our independence, freedom and peaceful life for ourselves, for Europe and for the whole free world. We will rely on strong international support in this struggle," Stefanchuk said.

He thanked Lithuania for its support and assistance to his country since the very first hours of the Russian invasion.

"We are grateful for your leadership on many pressing issues in the region, for your unwavering and fervent support for freedom and democracy, and for the fact that you are supporting Ukraine and Ukrainians in their honest struggle in these days," the Ukrainian parliament speaker said in Vilnius.

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Lithuania's support to Ukraine totals EUR 660 mln, including EUR 240 mln in military aid

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuania's total assistance to Ukraine is currently estimated at 660 million euros, including 240 million euros in military aid to the country that is fighting against Russia's aggression, Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Tuesday.  

"The estimated costs of Lithuania's nationwide assistance to Ukraine, refugees and so on total 660 million and the amount includes about 240 million in military assistance," he told reporters. 

The Defense Ministry's budget for 2023 earmarks around 40 million euros for support to Ukraine, with the necessary items to be purchased from Lithuanian producers, according to Anusauskas.  

"These are new purchases, primarily from Lithuanian producers (...). From ammunition to optics and all other things that are produced by Lithuanian manufacturers," he said.  

The minister said that Lithuania's existing reserves could also be used for military assistance to Ukraine. 

"If certain capabilities that we could hand over to the Ukrainians become available as a result of new acquisitions, then decisions will be made," he said.

Another two PzH2000 howitzers repaired in Lithuania have recently been sent to the Ukraine Armed Forces.

Anusauskas said on Monday that Lithuania was sending "155 mm ammunition for the Ukrainian artillery".

However, the Lithuanian Armed Forces told BNS that they could not disclose the quantity of the ammunition.  

 

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Ex-Lithuanian PM Slezevicius dies

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS - Former Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius has died on Tuesday at the age of 74, historian and journalist Vilius Kavaliauskas announced on Facebook.

Slezevicius served as Lithuania's prime minister from 1993 to 1996.

Before becoming prime minister, he worked as a lecturer and engineer.

According to the Lithuanian Encyclopedia, Slezevicius was a member of the Communist Party, and later joined the Communist Party of an independent Lithuania. He was then a member ad chairman of the Lithuanian Democratic Labor Party since 1990.

Slezevicius was ousted as prime minister in 1996 after the so-called banking scandal when he withdrew a fixed-term deposit of 135,000 litas one day before the bankruptcy of the Lithuanian Joint-Stock Innovative Bank.

He later worked as a business consultant.

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Vilnius starts dismantling Soviet sculptures despite UN committee warnings (updates)

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Workers on Tuesday started dismantling the monument to Soviet World War Two soldiers in Vilnius' Antakalnis Cemetery, despite interim measures imposed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). 

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius says he has no doubt that the monument is "a symbol of Soviet ideology that has nothing to do with graves" and that it is being taken down "legitimately and justifiably".

The mayor said that all the necessary permits have been obtained and that the UN committee's findings are not an obstacle to removing the statues.

"I've no doubt that this is the only right decision," he told reporters.

Simasius noted that the UN committee is asking not to dismantle graves, not to remove tombstones and not to destroy heritage, which the municipality is not doing, according to Simasius.

"I'm glad that we don't have to report to the United Nations," the mayor said. "Of course, the country – the government and the Justice Ministry which is representing the country – will naturally have to tell the Human Rights Committee what we are doing."

"The worst thing that can happen is that the United Nations can take the wrong view. But I really believe in common sense. Although, so far, the discussion of the decision there seems strange," he added. 

The capital has said that care will be taken not to damage the monument consisting of six granite statues of Soviet soldiers while removing it, with the work expected to be completed within a few weeks.

Lithuania's Justice Ministry said last month that the UNHRC had left its interim measures for the Soviet-era monument in place, thus formally banning Vilnius' authorities from removing it for the time being.

The measures were requested by a group of people calling themselves "ethnic Russians", including Kazimieras Juraitis, who is also involved in the controversial case of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood, an association founded by Algirdas Paleckis, as well as by Dmitrij Glazkov, Tatiana Brandt and Anastasija Brandt. 

The Justice Ministry and municipal officials say that the committee was misled by the arguments of the petitioners who claim that the Soviet-era monument will be desecrated and the nearby remains reburied. However, there is no intention to do so, according to the authorities.

The municipality is planning to hand the removed sculptures over to the National Museum of Lithuania.

 

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EU to fund up to 85 pct of Rail Baltica key for regional defense – Trautmann

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS - Catherine Trautmann, the European coordinator of the North-Sea Baltic TEN-T Corridor, says Russia's war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed Rail Baltica's function, making this project important not only for the region's economy but also for its defense.

Therefore, the EC has decided to finance up to 85 percent of the project's costs, she said.

"We need to bring the Baltics and Finland closer to the EU not primarily, but also for military use. Troops and military equipment should be able to travel to EU swiftly to ensure the defense of the EU and NATO. This point becomes relevant as Finland and Sweden are joining NATO," said at the Rail Baltica Industry Day conference in Riga on Tuesday. 

Before the war in Ukraine, Rail Baltica was essentially an economic project that also tackled environmental issues, but now it has become important to ensure security and peace, Trautmann said.

"Now the situation has changed: geopolitics are a factor. This is obvious for everybody. The Baltic states and Finland must bee better connected to the rest of the EU not only for development and prosperity, but also for peace and security," Trautmann said.

In her words, being aware of the project's not only economic but also geopolitical importance due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, the EU has decided to cover up to 85 percent of the railway project's costs as they have gone up lately.

"This information is probable relevant to our investors and construction companies because it makes a very safe project," the project coordinator said.

Both the project's increased costs and the new connections to Ukraine still need the European Parliament's approval, she said. 

Rail Baltica is among the EU's priority projects for the trans-European transport network. Last summer, the EC allocated an additional 357 million euros in funding for the project. The project was earlier reported to cost around 7 billion euros.

Rail Baltica is expected to connect Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Panevezys, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw from 2026 and include a 392-km section in Lithuania. Passenger trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 250 km per hour, while freight trains will be able to travel at speeds of up to 120 km per hour.

By Remigijus Bielinskas

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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 Ban on oil shipments via Lithuania to Kaliningrad takes effect (corrects)

(Corrects para 7 in the Dec 5 news report: PM said sanctions would affect 50 pct of transit)

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – The EU's embargo on most Russian oil imports, announced six months ago, comes into force on Monday. 

Depending on the specific commodity code, part of the sanctions take effect on December 5, with the rest to be enforced on February 5, 2023. 

Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LTG) says it does not yet have information on Russia's planned shipments of such cargo and what the quotas for these products are.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the information you are interested in yet," LTG Cargo spokeswoman Kotryna Dzikaraite told BNS.

Lina Laurinaityte-Grigiene, spokeswoman for the Lithuanian Customs Department, was also unable to comment on the types and quantities of Russian oil cargoes that will be allowed to be shipped to Russia's Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad via Lithuania.

"The function of the Customs is only to check whether the data declared by the carrier and the actual data about the cargo are correct. We only receive information about the cargo a few hours before it arrives in Lithuania," she told BNS. 

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in an interview with Reuters NEXT last week that the sanctions on Russian oil would affect about 50 percent of the cargo transit to Kaliningrad via Lithuania.

The sixth package of sanctions against the Kremlin, which comes into full force on December 5, bans most oil imports from Russia. The embargo does not apply to oil imported by pipeline as a concession to landlocked Hungary.

The ban will also cover Russian fuel imports from February 5.

LTG Cargo, the freight subsidiary of LTG, has said it transported around 2.3 million tons of various cargoes to and from Kaliningrad via Lithuania between January and October this year. 

 

By Remigijus Bielinskas

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Kazakhstan needs Europe, EU needs Kazakhstan – Lithuania's Landsbergis

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, currently in Kazakhstan, has called for strengthening not only bilateral relations, but also EU-Kazakhstan cooperation, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"Kazakhstan needs Europe and the European Union needs Kazakhstan to develop reliable energy, trade, resource supply, transit and logistics ties," the minister underlined.

He also expressed his support for Kazakhstan's ambition to diversify its energy and trade relations.

On Tuesday, Landsbergis met with his Kazakh counterpart Mukhtar Tileuberdi and said the ongoing geopolitical changes required new solutions, adding that one of them is to pursue closer mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Kazakhstan.

Landsbergis thanked Kazakhstan for its "firm stance in supporting the fundamental principles of international law" and expressed his gratitude for the protection of Lithuania's historical heritage sites in Kazakhstan after a monument to Lithuanian political prisoners was unveiled at the Spassk Memorial Complex in May.

Speaking about Kazakhstan's reform goals, Landsbergis said he saw considerable potential for closer cooperation between the two countries.

Referring to the further development of long-term business relations, Landsbergis called for further development of transport and logistics links, increased mutual investments, making use of the tourism sector's potential, and promoting student exchanges.

The Lithuanian foreign minister also paid tribute to the victims of totalitarianism by visiting and laying a wreath of flowers at the ALZHIR memorial complex, situated within the territory of a former prison camp.

During his official visit to Astana on December 5-7, the Lithuanian foreign minister has also met with Deputy Chairman of Kazakhstan's Senate Askar Shakirov and Aigul Kuspan, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security.

On Wednesday, Landsbergis is scheduled to meet with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Astana is a historical ally of Moscow but close relations between Russia and Kazakhstan have become strained since Moscow launched its military campaign in Ukraine. Kazakhstan. A former Soviet republic, is trying to balance its relations with the West and Moscow.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization in September, the Kazakh leader let in tens of thousands of Russians fleeing the call to fight in Ukraine. 

In November Tokayev was re-elected for a second presidential term without facing any real opposition candidates.

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No-confidence motion against Lithuanian MP Majauskas fails as ruling bloc snubs vote 

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – A no-confidence motion against Mykolas Majauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), failed on Tuesday as MPs from the ruling majority boycotted the vote.  

Over fifty MPs turned up for the secret ballot vote initiated by the opposition, while at least 71 votes were required to pass a no-confidence resolution.

No MPs of the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party were present at the vote. 

The no-confidence motion was signed by a group of over 30 opposition MPs. However, Agne Sirinskiene made it clear that the real aim of her initiative was not to oust the committee's chairman, but to see, through a secret ballot, how many MPs support Majauskas. 

The Statute of the Seimas does not allow bringing another motion of no confidence against the same MP during the same parliamentary session. 

Last week, Majauskas was expelled from the Homeland Union after he voted in favor of keeping the reduced 9 percent VAT rate for the food servicing industry in place throughout 2023, rather than until July as proposed by the government. 

The Homeland Union has said it will seek to remove Majauskas from his position as CBF chairman for defying party discipline and tabling budget proposals that were not approved by the Cabinet.

 

 

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Majauskas steps down as chair of Lithuanian parlt budget committee 

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Mykolas Majauskas said on Tuesday that he is stepping down as chairman of the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF).  

"Unfortunately, today's vote shows that the ruling majority does not support my continuing as CBF chairman," he said in a comment to BNS. "After taking into account the results of the vote and after careful consideration, I made the decision to resign as chairman." 

"I will ensure a smooth handover to the new chairperson and I wish them success in this difficult but meaningful job," he added.

Majauskas' comment came after the opposition's no-confidence motion against him failed earlier on Tuesday as MPs from the ruling majority boycotted the vote.  

Fifty-nine MPs took part in the secret ballot vote and nine of them voted in favor of dismissing Majauskas as the committee's chairman, 44 were against, five abstained, and one vote was invalidated.    

No MPs of the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party were present at the vote. 

At least 71 votes were required to pass a no-confidence resolution.

"I thank the members of the Seimas who voted for me. This vote is an assessment of the work of the CBF as a whole," said Majauskas. 

"During this time, we have passed many important pieces of legislation, including the compulsory transfer of salaries to bank accounts, additional taxation of banks, casinos and lotteries, the Olympic Committee funding reform, the overhaul of the Lithuanian Football Federation, and many others," the MP said. 

"Although I have not heard any complaints about the committee's work, you cannot head the CBF effectively unless you have the support of the ruling majority," he added. 

Last week, Majauskas was expelled from the Homeland Union after he voted in favor of keeping the reduced 9 percent VAT rate for the food servicing industry in place throughout 2023, rather than until July as proposed by the government. 

The Homeland Union has said it will seek that the parliament dismisses Majauskas from his position as CBF chairman for defying party discipline and tabling budget proposals that were not approved by the Cabinet.

Following the conservatives' moves, a group of over 30 opposition MPs tabled the no-confidence motion against Majauskas. However, Agne Sirinskiene made it clear that the real aim of her initiative was not to oust the committee's chairman, but to show, through a secret ballot, how many MPs support him. 

The Statute of the Seimas does not allow bringing another motion of no confidence against the same MP during the same parliamentary session. 

 

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Lithuanian supreme court rejects ex-judge Venckiene's appeal 

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – The Lithuanian Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected appeals filed by Neringa Venckiene, a former Lithuanian judge and parliamentarian, and her lawyer in a high-profile case in which she was convicted of resisting police officers, failing to comply with a bailiff's order, and hitting a person.

The Supreme Court's judgment, which is final and not subject to appeal, brings to an end more than a decade of proceedings.

"Having assessed the arguments and the materials of the case, the panel of judges decided to reject the appeals of Venckiene and her lawyer, (...) and to uphold the (lower) courts' rulings," Judge Aurelijus Gutauskas announced.  

On July 8, 2021, Panevezys Regional Court found Venckiene guilty and sentenced her to imprisonment, but declared the sentence as having been served because of the time she had spent in custody. 

The judgment was later upheld by the Lithuanian Court of Appeal. 

Venckiene was a central figure in the so-called Garliava story that started as a dispute over the custody of the daughter of her brother, Drasius Kedys. 

After her brother died, Venckiene took care of her niece and defied court orders to hand her over to her mother, Laimute Stankunaite.  

The former judge was charged and convicted after officials took her minor niece from her family home in Garliava, a suburb of Kaunas, and handed her over to her mother. 

 

By Ingrida Steniulienė

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 685 411 94, Vilnius newsroom


We count on Western Balkan countries to back EU foreign policy – Lithuania's Nauseda

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda expects Western Balkan partners' solidarity with the EU's stance on the Russia-started war in Ukraine.

"In the context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, we expect our partners in the Western Balkans to stand in solidarity with EU’s position towards Ukraine and support for it, to condemn the Kremlin’s aggression and to join EU’s policy of sanctions against Russia," the Lithuanian leader told the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Tirana, Albania, on Tuesday.

"Our values, actions and positions on foreign policy issues have to be aligned, otherwise it will be difficult to talk about further European integration," the president was quoted as saying in a statement released by the presidential press service.

According to the president, the creation of an integrated regional market based on renewable energy sources as a key to resilience against Russian energy blackmail, as well as curbing energy price hikes should be given special focus.

Nauseda also emphasized that Lithuania favored enhancing cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkan countries, and supported EU enlargement "based on the merits and reform efforts of the candidate countries".

Granting the EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova was a positive momentum to the EU enlargement process, Nauseda said, adding that now it's an excellent time for the Western Balkan countries to pursue reforms and to make progress towards EU membership.

The Lithuanian president also welcomed the opening of EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, and supported the granting of the candidate country status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vilnius newsroom


We count on Western Balkan countries to back EU foreign policy – Lithuania's Nauseda (expands)

(Updated version: adds paras 4-7)

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda expects Western Balkan partners' solidarity with the EU's stance on the Russia-started war in Ukraine.

"In the context of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, we expect our partners in the Western Balkans to stand in solidarity with EU’s position towards Ukraine and support for it, to condemn the Kremlin’s aggression and to join EU’s policy of sanctions against Russia," the Lithuanian leader told the EU-Western Balkans Summit held in Tirana, Albania, on Tuesday.

"Our values, actions and positions on foreign policy issues have to be aligned, otherwise it will be difficult to talk about further European integration," the president was quoted as saying in a statement released by the presidential press service.

In a video later released by the presidential press service, Nauseda said not only reforms being implemented were important for EU membership.

"Equally important, if not more important, is that these countries adhere to their common commitments, and to the values that the EU upholds, especially in the face of this war. They include very clear support for Ukraine, actions in line with the EU's common policy, participation in the sanction mechanism," the Lithuanian president said.

He also said he expected the process to move "even faster".

"Lithuania has never been skeptical about accepting new members. Of course, under certain conditions," Nauseda said.

According to the president, the creation of an integrated regional market based on renewable energy sources as a key to resilience against Russian energy blackmail, as well as curbing energy price hikes should be given special focus.

Nauseda also emphasized that Lithuania favored enhancing cooperation between the EU and the Western Balkan countries, and supported EU enlargement "based on the merits and reform efforts of the candidate countries".

Granting the EU candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova was a positive momentum to the EU enlargement process, Nauseda said, adding that now it's an excellent time for the Western Balkan countries to pursue reforms and to make progress towards EU membership.

The Lithuanian president also welcomed the opening of EU accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia, and supported the granting of the candidate country status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 645 093 86, Vilnius newsroom


TV Rain won’t be accessible in Lithuania as well after losing Latvian license

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – TV Rain (Dozhd), an independent Russian-language TV channel will no longer be accessible in Lithuania as well after the Latvian watchdog stripped it of its license, the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania (LRTK) said on Tuesday.

Latvia's National Electronic Mass Media Council's decision to strip the TV channel operating in exile of its license will come into force on Thursday night, LRTK said.

The license gave the right to distribute the content produced in EU countries, Russia, the US and elsewhere.

The channel was licensed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on June 6.

The Latvian media watchdog said the decision to revoke the broadcasting license was made due to threats to national security and public order.

Latvia's news agency LETA reports that the decision was made based on the TV channel's recent violations, including the absence of a soundtrack in the state language, the depiction of Crimea on a map as part of Russia, and also a TV presenter referring to Russia's army as "our army" and possibly expressing support for it, which the channel denies.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 239 64 16, Vilnius newsroom


Mayor of Lithuania's Siauliai suspected of abuse of office

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS - Arturas Visockas, mayor of Lithuania's northern city of Siauliai, on Tuesday faced allegations of abuse of office as part of a pre-trial investigation, launched earlier, into an allegedly non-transparent public tender.

The mayor was told not to leave the country and not to communicate with specific persons, the prosecution service said.

Visockas is suspected of illegally influencing the administration of Siauliai City Municipality, the director of a municipal enterprise and the local public procurement commission to simulate a lawful and transparent public procurement procedure and to create exclusive conditions for one private company to win a public street lighting tender

Visockas claims to have done everything in the public interest.

In June, two people were charged with abuse of office and incitement to abuse as part of the same pre-trial investigation. They included Rytis Maliukevicius, a member of the public procurement commission and director of Etenders Baltija, as well as Danielius Krinickas, a shareholder in the company that won the tender.

The suspected illegal actions may have enabled the company to win an EU-funded public procurement contract worth around 1.7 million euros.

By Austėja Masiokaitė-Liubinienė, Augustas Stankevičius, Ignas Jačauskas

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 08, Vilnius newsroom


Russian Embassy calls removal of Soviet sculptures in Vilnius "barbaric mockery"

VILNIUS, Dec 06, BNS – The removal of Soviet sculptures at Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius, started on Tuesday, is "barbaric mockery", the Russian Embassy in Vilnius said, calling on international institutions to assess the move of the local authorities.

It's "the culmination of the Lithuanian government's fierce desire to destroy the memory of the heroes who, at the cost of their lives, liberated Lithuania and Europe from Nazism", the embassy said.

"This barbaric mockery of the dead evokes only a feeling of deep contempt and justified indignation in every normal person," the embassy said.

Earlier in the day, the dismantling the monument to Soviet WWII soldiers was started at Antakalnis Cemetery, despite interim measures imposed by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC).

Last month, Lithuania's Justice Ministry said the UNHRC was misled by the person who asked for the interim measures for the Soviet-era monument.

"We call on international and public organizations to assess this demonstrative disregard for the decisions of the UN body," the Russian Embassy said.

 

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