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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 7, 2022

Dec 12 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Assembly of Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments opening in Vilnius
  2. Simonyte becomes member of Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats 
  3. Eleven migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  4. EU's 9th sanctions package to include proposals from Poland, Baltics – Vilnius' diplomat 
  5. Lithuania reports 554 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
  6. Ukraine, under Russia's attack, pays price of West's indecision – Lithuanian parlt speaker
  7. Lithuania doubles pace of training Ukrainian troops, to train 1,500 in 2023
  8. EU wants two WTO China panels over Lithuania trade restrictions
  9. Lithuania could now accept around 6,000-8,000 Ukrainian refugees - minister
  10. Ukraine, under Russia's attack, pays price of West's indecision – Lithuanian parlt speaker
  11. Ukraine hopes its NATO membership bid to gain momentum at Vilnius Summit – MP
  12. Lithuania's CNSD backs chair's bid to prevent Russians, Belarusians from owning weapons
  13. Lithuanian formin on EC's WTO request; it's another message to China
  14. Poland to continue to support transfer of Patriot missiles to Ukraine – Senate speaker 
  15. Sacked Lithuanian MP Majauskas to run for Vilnius mayor
  16. Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian parlt speakers call for increased support for Kyiv
  17. US to step up military presence in Baltics – embassy 
  18. US set to step up military presence in Baltics – embassy (expands)
  19. EUR 125 mln of RRF funding for Lithuania moved from grants to loans 
  20. Lithuanian president, Ukrainian Rada chairman talk war course, support
  21. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Thursday, December 8, 2022

Assembly of Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments opening in Vilnius

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments is getting underway in Vilnius on Wednesday. 

"At this difficult time for Ukraine and Europe, it's particularly important to coordinate action, for the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments to cooperate closely and to pool international support," Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, has said.

The opening of the session is also to be attended by Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate.  

The Assembly will also hold committee meetings on Wednesday.

Established in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk in 2005, the trilateral Assembly is a consultative inter-parliamentary body that discusses issues and projects of common interest. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania take turns hosting its sessions. 

 

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Simonyte becomes member of Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats 

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Tuesday became a member of the ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Martynas Prievelis, the party's executive secretary, has confirmed.

"Yes, Ingrida Simonyte became a member of our party today," he told BNS on Tuesday evening. "She joined our party's Naujoji Vilnia branch." 

The Homeland Union expects that the prime minister's move will encourage other people to join the party, according to Prievelis.  

Simonyte served as finance minister in the Cabinet of conservative Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in 2009 to 2012, and was elected on the Homeland Union's ticket to the parliament in 2016. 

Simonyte ran for president as the Homeland Union's candidate in 2019. She led the party's list in the last parliamentary election in 2020 and was appointed as prime minister after the conservatives' victory.

 

By Austėja Masiokaitė-Liubinienė

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Eleven migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away elven migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Wednesday morning.

Latvia recorded twelve attempts to cross the border illegally on Tuesday, and Polish border guards denied entry to 57 irregular migrants on Monday, according to the latest available information.

The daily number of migrants refused entry to Lithuania reached this year's high of 135 on September 20, nine fewer than the highest-ever number recorded on November 12, 2021.

A total of around 10,900 irregular migrants have been prevented from entering Lithuania since January.

Lithuanian border guards have sent almost 19,000 people back to Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to deny entry to irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

The SBGS says that illegal migration to Lithuania and the EU is being facilitated by Belarusian officials. 

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally last year.

Lithuania calls the unprecedented influx of migrants from Belarus, which began more than a year ago, a "hybrid attack" by the Minsk regime.

 

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EU's 9th sanctions package to include proposals from Poland, Baltics – Vilnius' diplomat 

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The European Union's ninth package of sanctions against Russia will include a number of proposals from Poland and the Baltic states, Arnoldas Pranckevicius, Lithuania's ambassador to the EU, said on Wednesday.  

"A considerable number of the ideas that will appear in the ninth package are taken from the joint Polish-Baltic non-paper, our proposals, and a considerable number of our ideas will be reflected there," he told LRT Radio. 

EU ambassadors will discuss the sanctions package at a meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union, or COREPER, later on Wednesday.  

The new sanctions package is expected to include measures in the areas of technology and finance, and the fight against disinformation, as well as "at least a couple of hundred" new individuals and companies responsible for war crimes in Ukraine, according to Pranckevicius. 

"We believe that there are still a number of actors, especially from the military structures and the military industry, the political elite, propagandists, law enforcement, oligarchs and their family members, who aren't yet on the sanctions lists," he said. 

The Lithuanian ambassador also expects new Russian TV channels and banks to be included in the ninth package. 

"Also, there'll probably be a number of new export restrictions, economic measures, sectoral sanctions and expanded technology lists," he said. 

The ambassador added, however, that the sanctions will likely be milder than sought by Lithuania, which is among the EU's most hardline supporters of restrictions. 

"We belong to the so-called group of sanctions hawks, so dubbed by the Brussels media because we, together with Poland, are in favor of the toughest sanctions," Pranckevicius said. 

"Naturally, the average of the 27 countries will always be lower than our expectations, so there can't be a package of sanctions that would fully satisfy Lithuania," he added.  

The EU has already adopted eight sanctions packages against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

 

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Lithuania reports 554 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 554 new coronavirus infections and one death from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Wednesday morning.

Of the new cases, 391 were primary, 148 were secondary and 14 were tertiary. 

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 now stands at 159, including six ICU cases.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen further to 183.8 cases per 100,000 people, but the seven-day percentage of positive tests has edged down to 19.6 percent.

The 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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Ukraine, under Russia's attack, pays price of West's indecision – Lithuanian parlt speaker

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Ukraine, which has been fighting back against Russia's invasion since late February, is partly paying the price of the West's indecision, Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Seimas, said as she opened the 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments in Vilnius on Wednesday. 

Russia's "brutal" war against Ukraine, in its tenth month now, "was not unexpected for us, the countries of the region, which have bitter historical experience and see phenomena or events as they are and not as we would like to see them", she said. 

She noted that in a joint document adopted at the Assembly's session a year ago, the three countries' parliamentarians called on the EU, NATO and other allies, as well as the international community, to take all possible measures to prevent Russia's further aggression against Ukraine.

"Unfortunately, our call to take all measures was not properly heard, and today, partly because of the international community's indecision, Ukrainian people are dying, and Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure are being destroyed," Cmilyte-Nielsen said. 

"The price of this indecision and appeasement is being paid not only by Ukraine, but also by a large part of the international community," she added.

Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate, are also taking part in the opening of the session.

Established in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk in 2005, the trilateral Assembly is a consultative inter-parliamentary body that discusses issues and projects of common interest. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania take turns hosting its sessions. 

 

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Lithuania doubles pace of training Ukrainian troops, to train 1,500 in 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Lithuania's Ministry of National Defense and the army are doubling the scope of training courses for Ukrainian soldiers, the ministry said on Wednesday. 

"About 500 Ukrainian troops have already been trained during the courses organized by the Ministry of National Defense and the Lithuanian army in 2022. To strengthen the country's resilience as soon as possible, the training pace will be doubled and the Lithuanian army will train some 1,500 Ukrainian troops, including 1,100 in Lithuania, in 2023," the statement reads.

The knowledge gained during the training will help Ukraine to counter Russian military aggression and continue troop training in the long term, the ministry said.

National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says Lithuania will continue to support Ukraine in every possible way, as much as needed, "until the end of the war started by Russia".

According to the ministry, Lithuanian military instructors have trained Ukrainian troops during 18 different courses this year.

Some of the training planned for 2023 in Lithuania will be part of the newly established Military Assistance Mission of the European Union to support Ukraine (EUMAM for Ukraine). A total of around 15,000 Ukrainian troops are set to be trained in the territories of EU member states, the ministry said.

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EU wants two WTO China panels over Lithuania trade restrictions

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS - The EU has on Wednesday asked the World Trade Organization to set up two panels as part of its ongoing trade disputes with China. One concerns the legality of the trade restrictions that China has had in place against Lithuanian exports and EU exports containing Lithuanian content since December 2021, the European Commission said.

The other concerns the legality of China restricting EU holders of high-tech patents from accessing EU courts to effectively protect and enforce their rights.

"Our preference was to solve these two significant and systemic cases in a consultation process and we have invested a considerable amount of time in doing so. However, this was to no avail. We are therefore left with no choice but to request the establishment of these WTO panels," Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis was quoted as saying in the statement.

According to the EC, in both cases, the Chinese measures are highly damaging to European businesses. Furthermore, China's discriminatory measures against Lithuania affect intra-EU trade and intra-EU supply chains and they impact the functioning of the EU internal market.

China's measures reduced trade from Lithuania by 80 percent, the EC said.

The WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) will discuss the EU's request at its next meeting on December 20. China can oppose the establishment of a panel once. If it does so, the EU will renew its request and the panel will be established at the January 30, 2023 meeting of the DSB. Panel proceedings can last up to one and a half years.

Last year, Lithuania allowed Taipei to open a Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius, which angered Beijing and it restricted relations with Vilnius and blocked Lithuanian exports and imports. This led to the European Union turning to the WTO earlier this year.

However, Lithuania's economy and innovation minister has recently said she's confident that Lithuania's trade with China would recover, adding that it depended on Beijing. She hoped that the EU's common trade policy and the block's WTO case would accelerate the process.

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Lithuania could now accept around 6,000-8,000 Ukrainian refugees - minister

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS - Lithuania could now take in around 6,000-8,000 Ukrainians as Europe gears up for a new wave of war refugees from Ukraine, says Lithuanian Social Security and Labor Minister Monika Navickiene.

If the number of incoming Ukrainians were higher, Lithuania could accept up to 30,000 people, she said.

"We think that we would be ready to receive about 6,000 to 8,000 people right now, if they were to cross the Lithuanian border (...), because certain schools and other buildings that are not being used by municipalities are ready and they are adapted and equipped. Equally, the refugee reception center itself has a much lower number of people, so we are ready," Navickiene told reporters on Wednesday. 

In her words, in case of higher demand and if more accommodation places are added, it would be possible to accommodate about 30,000 people "in a rather short period of time". 

"A total of about 30,000. Such capacity would probably also include the arenas we could quickly adapt to accommodate war refugees," Navickiene said. "If more of them arrived, it would certainly be more problematic to accommodate them all."

The latest figures from the Ministry of Social Security and Labor show that more than 71,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Lithuania so far. Some 100 refugees are currently arriving in Lithuania per week, the minister said.

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Ukraine, under Russia's attack, pays price of West's indecision – Lithuanian parlt speaker

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Ukraine, which has been fighting back against Russia's invasion since late February, is partly paying the price of the West's indecision, Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Seimas, said as she opened the 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments in Vilnius on Wednesday. 

Russia's "brutal" war against Ukraine, in its tenth month now, "was not unexpected for us, the countries of the region, which have bitter historical experience and see phenomena or events as they are and not as we would like to see them", she said. 

She noted that in a joint document adopted at the Assembly's session a year ago, the three countries' parliamentarians called on the EU, NATO and other allies, as well as the international community, to take all possible measures to prevent Russia's further aggression against Ukraine.

"Unfortunately, our call to take all measures was not properly heard, and today, partly because of the international community's indecision, Ukrainian people are dying, and Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure are being destroyed," Cmilyte-Nielsen said. 

"The price of this indecision and appeasement is being paid not only by Ukraine, but also by a large part of the international community," she added.

The speaker of the Seimas said she expects that Ukraine will be able to host the Assembly's session next year.  

"The trilateral cooperation between Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine is an organic effort of all three nations to create the future of the region by building on historical and cultural commonalities," Cmilyte-Nielsen said.   

"This format of cooperation, which has acquired the name of the Lublin Triangle, unlocks the potential of our three countries, brings us even closer together and creates added value for each country individually," she added. 

'Have no illusions about Russia' 

Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate, also took part in the opening of the session.

According to Grodzki, the Assembly's discussions will focus on "support for the heroic Ukrainian people" and regional security in a broader sense.

"We represent nations that have experienced the atrocities of war and know the price of peace, so we understand the importance of not being alone in the fight for sovereignty," he said. 

In the marshal's words, present-day Russia is repeating "Stalinist models", but today Europe is more united and not indifferent to the Ukrainian people.

Grodzki warned that the war could be protracted and that Russia will use it as a tool for global destabilization.

"(There is) the European order that we have been building since the collapse of the Soviet Union and they are trying to take us back to the Cold War. In this situation, any hope of a return to cooperation between the West and Russia is an illusion," the marshal of the Senate said.  

"A policy based on illusion will never work," he added.

'You need no explanation'

Stefanchuk said that Poland and Lithuania are the countries that best understand the current situation.

"You are the ones who understand the reality best; you are the ones to whom you do not need to explain anything; you are the ones with whom you just have to think together and reflect on the plans for the future," the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada said. 

"You have always believed and continue to believe in Ukraine; you are doing everything you can to help Ukraine win," he said.

The world was looking at the situation through "rose-tinted glasses" and was very late to react to the threats from Russia, according to Stefanchuk.

"Now everybody understands what the Kremlin regime is and what can be expected from the Russian Federation in the future," the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament said. "Now is the time to react adequately and to take steps to inspire other European nations and other European parliaments to fight for democratic values and common ideals."

"I want to assure you that we will not only win, but we will also rebuild Ukraine as a European state," he added.

He said that his country needs air defense systems, help in restoring its energy infrastructure, and financial assistance.

Ukraine has the initiative on the front line, despite the "terrorist shelling by Russia", and it is not losing its humanity and is helping others even while defending itself against aggression, according to Stefanchuk.

"We understand that hunger cannot be a weapon and, as a responsible country, we will do our utmost to ensure global food security," he said.

Established in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk in 2005, the trilateral Assembly is a consultative inter-parliamentary body that discusses issues and projects of common interest. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania take turns hosting its sessions. 

 

By Austėja Masiokaitė-Liubinienė

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Ukraine hopes its NATO membership bid to gain momentum at Vilnius Summit – MP

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS - Ukraine hopes its NATO membership bid will gain momentum at the NATO summit in Vilnius met year, Ukrainian MP Oleksiy Kuznetsov said.

Speaking at the 12th session of the Assembly of the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliaments in Vilnius on Wednesday, he urged the West to now start planning the post-war situation and to ensure support for Ukraine's accession to NATO.

"The NATO summit in Vilnius will be key here as we expect a lot from this meeting. We believe the summit will not only help to identify the next deterrence steps, but also to increase available funds to accelerate Ukraine's accession to NATO and to ensure a lasting peace", said the chairman of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada's Subcommittee on De-occupation and Reintegration.

"Ukraine's accession to NATO is not only a state policy goal, but also a security policy instrument," he stressed.

He also stressed at the meeting of the Assembly's Committee on Cooperation on Security Matters that Russia is using "terrorist tactics" to attack Ukraine's civil and energy infrastructure, adding that Russia "must be left with no chance to win" and that the West should not slow down the pace of its military assistance to ensure its own security.

The politician exceptionally thanked Poland and Lithuania for their military and humanitarian support. He pointed out that Lithuania's support so far is valued at 187 million euros, and that Ukraine is supported not only with military equipment, but also through joint military exercises as Lithuanian instructors are training Ukrainian troops.

Ukraine applied for accelerated accession to NATO in September.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed the Alliance's commitment to Ukraine and said that the country would one day become a member of the world's largest security organization, adding, however, that the chances of this happening in the near future are dim.

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Lithuania's CNSD backs chair's bid to prevent Russians, Belarusians from owning weapons

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Lithuania's Committee on National Security and Defense has backed its chairman Laurynas Kasciunas' proposal to prevent Russian and Belarusian citizens from owning guns in Lithuania.

"I have no doubt this will make us safer," Kasciunas told the CNSD sitting on Wednesday

In his words, the changes are necessary to prevent the formation of diversion groups in Lithuania in the event of unrest.

Under his proposed amendments to the existing Law on Control of Weapons and Ammunition, permanent residents of Lithuania who are not citizens of countries that meet the criteria of European and transatlantic integration chosen by Lithuania would be prohibited from acquiring and possessing weapons in Lithuania.

People who already possess such weapons would have to give them up within one year of the law's entry into force by selling them, converting them or handing them over to the police, and their weapon permits would be revoked. Failure to do so would result in confiscation.

This proposal is part of broader amendments to the Law on Control of Weapons and Ammunition that are yet to be adopted during two votes in the Lithuanian Seimas.

Some MPs suggested exemptions for Russian opposition figures and dissidents.

Social Democrat Dovile Sakaliene backed the proposal on the condition that safeguards would be put in place in the future "to avoid run everyone who does not pose any problem over with one steamroller".

Meanwhile, Saulius Skvernelis, leader of the Democrats "For Lithuania", called for temporary confiscation of weapons from Russian and Belarusian citizens. "Wouldn't it make sense to temporarily take away these weapons? And then – after two or three years – they could get their weapons back," the politician said.

Kasciunas, however, called for a principled decision that could be changed later, if necessary.

There are currently 294 Russian and 46 Belarusian citizens in Lithuania who have permits to keep or carry weapons, Kasciunas said.

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Lithuanian formin on EC's WTO request; it's another message to China

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has welcomed the European Union’s request to set up a WTO panel over China's economic coercion against Lithuania, saying that it’s another message to China that the EU would defend its member states from this country's economic coercion

"We welcome the European Commission’s decision on behalf of the EU to request the WTO to establish a panel. This step sends another message to China: the EU will defend the single market and EU member states by all means are against China’s politically motivated economic coercion," Landsbergis was quoted as saying in a statement released by his ministry of Wednesday.

The minister also stressed that Lithuania wants constructive relations with China, adding, however, that China’s systematic violations of international trade rules and legitimate business interests can not be tolerated. 

Landsbergis noted that China had already had the opportunity to resolve the dispute during the WTO consultations but did not behave constructively. Therefore, establishing a panel was fair and defended the rule-based international trade order.

"Illegal economic pressure, even if against just one EU Member State, must be seen as an attack on the whole of the Union. Thus, the EU will protect its rights and use every possibility offered by international law," the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

Earlier in the day, the EU asked the World Trade Organization to set up two panels as part of its ongoing trade disputes with China. One concerns the legality of the trade restrictions that China has had in place against Lithuanian exports and EU exports containing Lithuanian content since December 2021, the European Commission said.

The other concerns the legality of China restricting EU holders of high-tech patents from accessing EU courts to effectively protect and enforce their rights.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body will consider the request to establish a panel on 20 December. China has the right to oppose the first request, in which case the decision on the establishment of a panel would be taken at a meeting due to take place on January 30, 2023.

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Poland to continue to support transfer of Patriot missiles to Ukraine – Senate speaker 

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – Poland will accept Patriot missiles from Germany, but will continue to support their transfer to Ukraine, Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate, said in Vilnius on Wednesday. 

His comment came a day after Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said that Warsaw would accept the missiles from Germany after earlier calling on Berlin to send them to Ukraine instead.

"There was a discussion, which has now ended, and those systems will be in Poland," the marshal said a joint news conference with the Lithuanian and Polish parliamentary speakers in Vilnius. 

"However, there is absolutely no doubt that we have committed in bilateral and trilateral talks that we will support the need to send as many Patriot batteries as possible to Ukraine, because Ukraine's air defense is one of the key elements needed to win the war," he said. 

Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, said that Russia's war tactics target civilians, which is why "closing the skies is the number one issue for Ukraine".

"We do need modern systems like Patriot; that is a priority," Stefanchuk told the news conference. "We have been taking about this with our colleagues, and (...) at other levels." 

"And I will be grateful to those countries that have influence on decisions for Ukraine to receive missile and air defense systems in the near future so as to save as many lives in Ukraine as possible," he said.  

Germany offered to deploy the advanced US-made Patriot system to Poland after a deadly explosion believed to have been caused by a stray Ukrainian air defense missile killed two people in a Polish village close to the border with Ukraine last month.

However, Poland's authorities asked Berlin to ship the system to Ukraine instead to help the country defend itself against Russian missile strikes.

Germany then said that it would have to discuss with NATO any proposals to send the Patriot system to Ukraine as it was part of the Alliance's integrated defenses. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said, however, that it was up to Germany to decide.

Warsaw maintained that deploying the Patriot missiles in Ukraine would have increased the security of both Poland and its neighbor.

The United States has already deployed Patriot missiles to Poland and Berlin has deployed them to Slovakia.

 

 

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Sacked Lithuanian MP Majauskas to run for Vilnius mayor

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS - Mykolas Majauskas, a Lithuanian MP who has recently been expelled from the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, announced on Wednesday his plans to run for Vilnius mayor.

"I have decided to run for Vilnius mayor as an independent candidate. I have ideas, energy and I want to devote all my effort to an important cause," the politician posted on Facebook.

He says made the decision "believing that the time has come for people who are not afraid to take personal responsibility".

"Independent from political parties, I will be able to represent all city residents and dedicate all my effort to Vilnius. I invite everyone who supports me and has ideas or proposals for Vilnius to contact me," the politician said.

Majauskas was expelled from the HU-LCD party last week for supporting a proposal, not pre-agreed with the government, to extend VAT relief for the catering sector for the whole year of 2023.

On Tuesday, Majauskas said he was stepping down as chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance.

Other candidates for Vilnius mayor include MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius (the Freedom Party), Valdas Benkunskas (the HU-LCD), MP Rasa Budbergyte (the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania), Lukas Savickas (Democrats "For Lithuania"), MEP Stasys Jakeliunsa (the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union), ex-Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas (the Freedom and Justice Party), and ex-Lithuanian army chief Valdas Tutkus (the Lithuanian Regions Party).

Lithuanian cities will elect their local councils and mayors in the spring of 2023.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuanian, Polish, Ukrainian parlt speakers call for increased support for Kyiv

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – In a declaration signed in Vilnius on Wednesday, the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian parliamentary speakers call for the West's increased support for Kyiv in its fight against Russia's military aggression and for an assessment of the legitimacy of Moscow's membership of the United Nations. 

"As we gathered in the Lublin format in Vilnius today, we reaffirmed our important cooperation between the countries of the Triangle, which is particularly important for our region at this critical time, and signed a joint declaration reflecting our common aspirations to help Ukraine (...) defend itself against Russia's bloody aggression, to ensure that those guilty of war crimes receive a just retribution, and to secure Ukraine's transatlantic integration and its future," Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Seimas, said at a news conference. 

Ukraine's membership of the European Union and NATO is "the key overarching goal", she said.

The declaration was also signed by Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and Tomasz Grodzki, marshal of the Polish Senate. 

Cmilyte-Nielsen said the trilateral cooperation format is "like an icebreaker" that is helping to persuade more skeptical countries to support Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Grodzki said that the formal should be expanded to a "quadrangle" to include Belarusian representatives who "are under very strong pressure" from Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

Stefanchuk thanked his counterparts for their support, underlining the importance of the backing of international partners in resisting aggression.

"Among all international partners, Lithuania and Poland are leaders who help at the political level, at the economic level and at the level of sanctions," he said.  

The chairman of the Verkhovna Rada said that reparation to Ukraine for the damage caused by Russia, punishment of those responsible by a tribunal and further Euro-Atlantic integration, as called for in the declaration, are "our way to return to our European home".

The declaration condemns Russia's attempts to annex the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and reiterates the demand for a "full and unconditional" withdrawal of Russia's military forces from the whole of Ukraine.

The document urges the international community to maintain and increase sanctions pressure on Russia to "further significantly reduce the aggressor state's ability to continue its war against Ukraine", and to continue to provide political, economic, financial, humanitarian, military and other assistance to Kyiv.

It also proposes to assess the legitimacy of Russia's membership of the United Nations, in particular its status as a permanent member of the Security Council, and membership of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

"Expelling Russia from all international organizations, wherever possible, is solidarity and Ukraine is grateful for such solidarity," said Stefanchuk.

The parliamentary speakers also underline the "crucial importance" of accelerating the delivery of air defense and anti-missile systems to Ukraine and of urgent international support for the country's energy sector.

Established in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk in 2005, the trilateral Assembly is a consultative inter-parliamentary body that discusses issues and projects of common interest. Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania take turns hosting its sessions. 

 

 

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US to step up military presence in Baltics – embassy 

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The United States is set to further step up its military presence in the Baltic countries and change the status of US forces in Lithuania to "a persistent rotational presence", the US embassy in Vilnius said on Wednesday. 

The US battalion has been deployed at the Pabrade training area close to Vilnius since 2019 with longer or shorter breaks between rotations.

Robert Gilchrist, the US ambassador to Lithuania, has informed Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas about the planned troop deployment changes.

"As part of the ongoing commitment to its Baltic Allies, the United States will further enhance the continuous and persistent US military presence in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania," the embassy said in a press release.   

"In Lithuania, this initially includes transitioning the episodic deployments of an armored battalion-sized element and field artillery battery to a persistent rotational presence," it said.

 

 

By Saulius Jakučionis

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US set to step up military presence in Baltics – embassy (expands)

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The United States is set to further step up its military presence in the Baltic countries and change the status of US forces in Lithuania to "a persistent rotational presence", the US embassy in Vilnius said on Wednesday. 

The US battalion has been deployed at the Pabrade training area close to Vilnius since 2019 with longer or shorter breaks between rotations.

Robert Gilchrist, the US ambassador to Lithuania, has informed Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas about the planned troop deployment changes.

"As part of the ongoing commitment to its Baltic Allies, the United States will further enhance the continuous and persistent US military presence in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania," the embassy said in a press release.   

"In Lithuania, this initially includes transitioning the episodic deployments of an armored battalion-sized element and field artillery battery to a persistent rotational presence," it said.

“As President Biden has said, we are committed to defending every inch of NATO territory," Gilchrist said in the press release. 

"These US deployments demonstrate this commitment, and while we continue to adapt our force posture in the region, we are committed to maintaining a persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region and intensifying training with our Baltic Allies to maintain combat credible capabilities and to enhance our defense and deterrence posture," he said.

Anusauskas was quoted as saying in the press release that Lithuania is "committed to providing necessary host nation support". 

"US military presence remains a critical part of our deterrence and defense against Russia," he said. "We welcome and strongly support the enhancement of continuous and persistent US military presence in Lithuania." 

A company-size unit of around 150 US troops was stationed in Lithuania on a rotational basis in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. 

After three years of company rotations, the US has been deploying battalions more regularly to Lithuania since 2019.

 

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EUR 125 mln of RRF funding for Lithuania moved from grants to loans 

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The amount of grants available to Lithuania under the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is being cut by 125 million euros because the economy was less affected by the pandemic, but the government will be able to borrow the same sum of money, Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste said on Wednesday. 

"The grant part of the New Generation Lithuania plan was linked to economic indicators," she told reporters. "As the Lithuanian economy was relatively less affected during the pandemic, the grant part earmarked for Lithuania was reduced after the GDP indicators were revised," she said. 

However, the 125 million euros will be moved to the loan part of the RRF funding for Lithuania, according to the minister.   

"Simply because Lithuania's economy looked quite positive, the amount that reduces the grant part is being transferred to the loan part, which is why the renewed request is being submitted," she said. 

It was said earlier that Lithuania would be eligible for up to 3 billion euros in loans and 2.225 billion euros in grants under the RRF.

Last week, Lithuania submitted, with some delay, its request to the European Commission for the first tranche of 565 million euros under the RRF.

 

By Valdas Pryšmantas

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuanian president, Ukrainian Rada chairman talk war course, support

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS –Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda met with Chairman of Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada Ruslan Stefanchuk in Vilnius on Wednesday and discussed the course of Russia's started war in Ukraine. 

Nauseda also reiterated Lithuania’s full diplomatic, financial and military support for Ukraine.

"The people of Lithuania know what it is like to live in the neighborhood of an aggressor, they understand the suffering and injustice Ukraine is experiencing. Lithuania fully supports Ukraine, provides and will continue to provide military, humanitarian and financial aid until victory. Ukraine is going through dark times, but the unbreakable spirit, courage and determination of the Ukrainian people is what makes you invincible. Lithuania knows that Ukraine will win," Nauseda told the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament.

Nauseda also assured Stefanchuk that Lithuania, together with its allies, would continue to do its utmost to help Ukraine win this war and endure the winter, the presidential press service said.

Nauseda and Stefanchuk discussed the course of Russia’s war in Ukraine noting that Russia’s deliberate targeting of civilians and critical infrastructure in Ukraine is aimed at exhausting Ukraine and spreading chaos and panic in the country. This, Nauseda said, is yet another war crime of the Kremlin’s regime.

The Lithuanian president also stressed the need to hold Russia accountable for its crimes of aggression in Ukraine and expressed Lithuania’s strong support for Ukraine’s initiative to set up a special tribunal to investigate Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine.

The Lithuanian leader stressed that Russia’s "peace talks" would only give Russia the opportunity to regroup and strengthen its military capabilities instead of actually bringing peace. According to the President, the war will only end when Russia withdraws all its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine.

"President Gitanas Nauseda also reiterated Lithuania’s strong support for Ukraine’s EU membership aspirations, and stressed that Lithuania was in favor of an early opening of the negotiations and a smooth negotiation process," the statement reads.

The meeting also discussed the upcoming NATO Summit in Vilnius in 2023, where political cooperation between NATO and Ukraine will be one of the key issues on the agenda.

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Thursday, December 8, 2022

VILNIUS, Dec 07, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Thursday, December 8, 2022:

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to appear on Ryto Garsai on the public television LRT at 8.05 a.m.; to attend a meeting of the Conference of Chairs at 8.30 a.m.; to attend a meeting of the Liberal Movement political group in the Seimas at 9 a.m.; to chair the Seimas' morning sitting at 10 a.m.; to attend the opening of a photo exhibition on motherhood during wartime at 1 p.m.; to chair the Seimas' afternoon sitting at 2 p.m.

JUSTICE MINISTERA Ewelina Dobrowolska to attend a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels.

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

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