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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, November 20, 2023

Nov 21 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Twelve irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  2. Germany's Rheinmetall considers building plant in Lithuania (media)
  3. Lithuania reports 58 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
  4. Full division in Lithuania unachievable until 2035 with current funding – defense chief 
  5. No explosives found at Kaunas, Vilnius Airports
  6. Universal draft may become irrelevant for Lithuania in future – defense chief 
  7. Lithuania picks Jarukaitis as candidate for CJEU judges, Norkus for advocate general
  8. Two men damage Belarusian border barrier while trying to let 10 migrants into Lithuania
  9. Lithuanian formin endorses conclusion on Matulonis' misconduct, no penalty
  10. Fines recovered in Lithuania for sanction non-compliance to be used to rebuild Ukraine
  11. Hoax bomb threat targets Lithuania's Kaunas hydro power plant 
  12. New bomb threats in Lithuania not linked to earlier cyber attack – center 
  13. NATO jets in Baltics scrambled 4 times over Russian aircraft last week
  14. 25 pct of Lithuanians feel anxiety, stress caused by wars in Ukraine, Israel
  15. Agreement on Lithuania's EUR 1 mln contribution to EBRD trust fund signed 
  16. Lithuanian govt proposes allocating extra EUR 157 mln for roads next year
  17. Lithuania allocates EUR 1 mln to Ukraine via to EBRD trust fund
  18. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Twelve irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away 12 migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Monday morning.

Latvia reported 36 attempts at illegal border crossings on Sunday, and 29 irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Saturday, according to the latest available information.

A total of 2,473 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year.

Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of over 21,800 people from crossing in from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

The influx of irregular migrants to the EU's eastern member states from Belarus began in 2021 and is blamed by the West on the Minsk regime.

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally in 2021. However, the vast majority of them fled Lithuania once they were allowed to move freely.

 

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Germany's Rheinmetall considers building plant in Lithuania (media)

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Germany's arms manufacturer Rheinmetall AG is considering building a factory in Lithuania, LNK News reported on Friday.

Rheinmetall AG top executives visited Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Friday. 

Neither the company nor Simonyte commented on the meeting, which had been announced on her official agenda.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, says that Rheinmetall AG is considering building a production facility in Lithuania.

"As far as I know, Germany's Rheinmetall company is interested in the possibility of developing a certain capacity in Lithuania, a production capacity," he told LNK.

Kasciunas believes that the establishment of the company's factory in Lithuania would be in line with Lithuania's national defense interests, reducing its dependency on supply chains.

Rheinmetall AG is a key supplier of tanks, armored vehicles and other equipment to European armies and is among the world's leading ammunition manufacturers.

There is no doubt that the Germans' interest in investing in Lithuania is driven by the planned deployment of a German military brigade in the country.

Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite says that a number of foreign arms manufacturers have recently shown interest in investing in Lithuania.

 

By Ingrida Steniulienė

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Lithuania reports 58 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 58 new coronavirus infections and no deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Monday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has edged down to 282.2 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 32.9 percent.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals stands at 122, including 11 ICU cases. 

The number of new coronavirus cases hit the peak in Lithuania in early February 2022 when more than 14,000 new infections were recorded daily. Around 1.19 million people in Lithuania have tested positive for COVID-19 at least once.

COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania took an upward turn in mid-September after having stayed at a low level since May. 

Two-thirds of the country's population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far, according to the statistics.

 

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Full division in Lithuania unachievable until 2035 with current funding – defense chief 

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – If Lithuania maintains its current defense funding, it could have a full army division by 2035, five years later than planned now, according to Chief of Defense General Valdemaras Rupsys. 

"I'll be realistic – with the current funding, it is the year 2035," Rupsys told BNS in an interview. 

"By 2035, it is possible that we could reach full combat capability, but I am optimistic that politicians really understand the importance of having that (division), so the funding will increase," he said. 

The general said that without an increase in funding, the creation of the division "will take time and time is not our ally".

According to the chief of defense, Lithuania should earmark higher defense spending in its budgets for the next few years in order to have the military unit fully ready by 2030.

"In 2030, we could declare it as a combat division on NATO's capabilities list. Now we will declare it earlier, too, but we will seek assistance from Western countries, our allies, to support us with certain capabilities," Rupsys said. 

"Of course, to be absolutely fair, after 2030 we will not have attack helicopters which normally support a division, (...) but the fact is that the division as a unit will be operational," he added.

The allied capabilities mentioned by the chief of defense could include long-range artillery, missile artillery and reconnaissance units.

Some experts say Lithuania should spend at least 3 percent of its GDP on defense. The government currently suggests allocating 2.71 percent of GDP to defense in 2024, with 2.52 percent coming from the state budget, and the rest from the so-called "solidarity contributions" by banks, intended solely for financing infrastructure for hosting allied troops. 

The president-chaired State Defense Council in early May approved the proposal to create a division in the Lithuanian Armed Forces. 

The military confirmed in April that they already had about three-quarters of the capabilities needed for the division and planned to acquire more military equipment in the near future. 

It was thought earlier that the division's maneuver units would be formed on the basis of the Iron Wolf and Zemaitija infantry brigades and the Aukstaitija reserve light infantry brigade.

Rupsys says, however, that the structure of the division is being reviewed because the weapons and ammunition previously earmarked for the Aukstaitija brigade have been sent to Ukraine to support the country that is fighting back against Russia's military aggression.

According to the general, the current plan is that "an allied brigade would at some point" serve as the third brigade of the division.

"Looking at the medium-term acquisition plans, we don't see the prospect that by 2030, we will have the necessary weapons for our Aukstaitija brigade," he said. 

A division is a military unit made up of several brigades. The military say Lithuania's division would consist of some 17,000-18,000 troops.

 

 

By Saulius Jakučionis, Augustas Stankevičius

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No explosives found at Kaunas, Vilnius Airports

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – No explosives have been found in the common areas of Kaunas and Vilnius Airports following a report earlier on Monday about explosives allegedly planted at the two airports.

An anonymous bomb threat was received by telephone after 8 a.m., according to Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports, LTOU), the airport operator in Lithuania, on Monday.

The company reported at around 9.30 a.m. that check-in continued, passengers were allowed back into the terminal after the situation was assessed, a detailed check of the common areas of Kaunas Airport was carried out and no explosives were found.

Approximately 100 passengers were temporarily evacuated from the airport. According to the company, no flights were delayed or cancelled.

Around 10 a.m. LTOU also informed that no explosives had been found in Vilnius as well, check-in also continues here and passengers are being allowed into the terminals.

LTOU says the situation will likely affect the departure of two flights – to Helsinki and Warsaw – in Vilnius, but is unlikely to affect Kaunas Airport.

An anonymous person also warned about an allegedly planted bomb at Vilnius Airport on November 15 but no explosives were later found.

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Universal draft may become irrelevant for Lithuania in future – defense chief 

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Chief of Defense General Valdemaras Rupsys believes that Lithuania may have to focus on training officers rather than a reserve of privates in the future, which could make universal conscription irrelevant.

According to Rupsys, the experience of Ukraine, which is fighting back against Russia's military aggression, shows that it is possible to train privates for combat quite quickly even during a conflict.

"Generally speaking, I think that the training of commanders and having an adequate number in the active reserve is essential," the chief of defense told BNS in an interview. "As Ukraine shows, it is easier to train privates quickly." 

"When it comes to reserve training, (...) I'd say that we are now putting a lot of emphasis on the private. However, wars, especially the war in Ukraine, reveal a shortage of non-commissioned officers and officers. In war, there is a huge need for them, both in terms of numbers and qualifications," he said.

Lithuania reintroduced partial military conscription in the spring of 2015 amid security concerns following Russia's annexation of Crimea. Up to 4,000 conscripts are called up for mandatory military service annually. 

Last summer, the Defense Ministry proposed to reform conscription to make it more flexible and increase the annual number of draftees to around 5,000.

President Gitanas Nauseda, the ruling conservatives and some other politicians are calling for universal conscription, but the idea does not enjoy broad support.

Supporters of universal conscription say it would increase the number of citizens ready to take up arms to defend the country and would reduce inequality, but critics argue that it makes more sense to invest in modernizing the professional army.

According to Rupsys, with universal military service, if only adult men were conscripted, their number could reach up to 7,000 per year.

In his words, this would be possible, but training conscripts would be a bigger challenge than the underdeveloped infrastructure, as the Lithuanian Armed Forces would not have enough non-commissioned officers and officers to train them.

"Let me put it this way: if it were decided now to immediately implement a universal conscription model, (...) it would be at the expense of quality," the general said.

Lithuania faced a similar challenge in 2015, when it reintroduced conscript service after a seven-year hiatus, he said.

 

By Saulius Jakučionis

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Lithuania picks Jarukaitis as candidate for CJEU judges, Norkus for advocate general

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – A working group set up by the Lithuanian prime minister has picked Irmantas Jarukaitis as the country's candidate for judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and Rimvydas Norkus has been chosen as the candidate for advocate generals, the Justice Ministry said on Monday.

A total of two persons were contenders for CJEU candidates, and four sought to become an advocate general.

Besides Jarukaitis, who is already working at the CJEU, Mazvydas Michalauskas, a member of the Paris Bar Association, was the second contender.

And the contenders for advocate generals also included Gintautas Bartkus, a former justice minister and now a lawyer, partner and head of Bartkus & Partners, a specialized law firm, as well as Laurynas Didziulis, Michalauskas and Rimvydas Norkus, the former president of the Supreme Court of Lithuania and now a judge at the General Court of the European Union.

Following interviews with the contender, the working group drew up lists of candidates who meet the requirements for judges and advocates general of the CJEU. The short-listed candidates were those who scored at least eight out of ten.

"Irmantas Jarukaitis has been included in the list of candidates for CJEU judges. Rimvydas Norkus has been included in the list of candidates for advocats general of the CJEU," the statement says.

The lists have been submitted to Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte. After assessing the nominations, she will submit a reasoned proposal to the government on these candidates.

With the president's approval, the government will further consult the Seimas on the nomination of the selected candidates.

Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the judges and advocates general of the CJEU are appointed by common accord of the governments of member states for a term of office of six years, after consultation of a statutory committee.

The CJEU is made up of 27 judges and 11 advocates general, appointed by common accord of member states for a term of six years.

The court monitors the legality of acts of EU institutions, ensures that member states comply with their obligations under the treaties and interprets EU law at the request of national courts.

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Two men damage Belarusian border barrier while trying to let 10 migrants into Lithuania

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS - Two men damaged the physical barrier on the Lithuanian border with Belarus at the Puskai frontier station on Saturday and tried to let 10 illegal migrants into Lithuania, the State Border Guard Service said on Monday.

The men were spotted through the surveillance system. They were wearing camouflage clothing and masks, and cut the concertina and fence and then called ten migrants who were nearby and fled back to Belarus themselves.

One migrant who had managed to enter Lithuania escaped back when Lithuanian border guards arrived, while the other nine had not entered Lithuanian through the damaged barrier. All ten irregular migrants fled to Belarus.

In total, 85 attempts to deliberately damage the physical barrier have been recorded by the SBGS this year, compared to 467 such cases last year.

This year, Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of 2,473 irregular migrants from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated locations.

More than 21,800 migrants have been refused entry from Belarus since August 3, 2021 when Lithuanian border guards were given the right to turn irregular migrants away. Some of them have tried to enter Lithuania more than once. 

The influx of migrants from Belarus to the EU's eastern member states started in 2021 and the West blames the Minsk regime for it. Almost 4,200 migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus at the time, but most of them have left the country since movement restrictions were lifted.

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Lithuanian formin endorses conclusion on Matulonis' misconduct, no penalty

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has endorsed the conclusion issued by a commission set up by the Foreign Ministry on the misconduct of the country's ambassador to NATO, Deividas Matulionis, and the diplomat will not be disciplined.

"The minister has accepted the inquiry commission's conclusions on Deividas Matulionis' possible misconduct," Paulina Levickyte, spokeswoman for the foreign minister, told BNS on Monday.

Last week, the commission concluded that Matulionis had committed official misconduct when he failed to follow instructions during the NATO summit in Vilnius. The commission, however, decided not to recommend any disciplinary sanction as "in the context of the outcome of the NATO summit, it is difficult to assess the damage caused to the state".

Approached by BNS, the diplomat refrained to comment on the situation at the time.

The delfi.lt news website reported in August that the investigation had been launched due to concerns that the diplomat might have failed to adhere to the mandate given by the state authorities, potentially weakening Lithuania's negotiating position during the talks on the Vilnius summit's documents. The probe centered around Matulionis' actions during the negotiations on the NATO communiqué and the wording on the deployment of the German brigade in Lithuania. 

President Gitanas Nauseda has said that he has confidence in the ambassador, emphasizing the complexity of the talks during the NATO summit in Vilnius.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Fines recovered in Lithuania for sanction non-compliance to be used to rebuild Ukraine

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS - Fines received for non-compliance with the existing international and national sanctions will be transferred to the Development Cooperation Fund and allocated for the reconstruction of Ukraine, Lithuanian lawmakers have decided.

According to their adopted amendment, the fund will receive fines and confiscated assets for non-compliance with the existing international or national sanctions. The amendment also states that these funds will be used for support exclusively related to the reconstruction and restoration of Ukraine following Russian aggression.

This amendment will remain in force for a decade, until January 2034.

"The goal is for Lithuania to make a united contribution to Ukraine's reconstruction and to demonstrate its firm commitment to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's aggression," Foreign Vice Minister Jovita Neliupsiene said when presenting the bill to the Seimas.

According to the Code of Administrative Offenses, violators of the existing international sanctions or restrictive measures imposed by Lithuanian law face fines ranging between 200 and 6,000 euros.

The damage caused by Russia in Ukraine is estimated at 700 billion euros, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Some 1,473 Russian and Belarusian citizens and 207 entities are now subject to the existing EU sanctions. They have already led to the freezing of 215 billion euros worth of assets in EU member states, as well as the immobilization of around 300 billion euros worth of assets of the Central Bank of Russia in the EU and G7 countries.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Hoax bomb threat targets Lithuania's Kaunas hydro power plant 

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – An anonymous call that explosives have been planted at Kaunas Hydro Power Plant, one of Lithuania's strategically important facilities, proved to be a hoax on Monday. 

The caller told the police at just after 11 a.m. that the plant would explode at 1 p.m. 

"Officers and colleagues from the Public Security Service checked the accesses and internal premises, and found no suspicious items," Kaunas police spokeswoman Odeta Vaitkeviciene told BNS.

On Monday morning, the police received false calls about explosives at Kaunas and Vilnius airports. Last week, a bomb threat targeting the capital's airport also proved to be a hoax.   

 

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New bomb threats in Lithuania not linked to earlier cyber attack – center 

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Lithuania's National Crisis Management Center (NCMC) said on Monday that new hoax bomb threats do not appear to be linked to last month's cyber attack where false threats were emailed to various institutions across the country.

"The pattern of false bomb threats is slightly different this time, as is the form. They are received through voice calls or automated voice calls, rather than emails," the NCMC told reporters.

"There are currently no clear indications that this is a continued attack," it said.   

According to the center, services are responding to the threats and managing the situation. 

"Currently, recipients of such threats are recommended to call 112 and follow the instructions of the officers," it said in the comment. 

The police are conducting a pre-trial investigation and trying to identify the callers making the threats.

On Monday, the police received false calls about explosives at Kaunas Hydro Power Plant and at Kaunas and Vilnius airports. Last week, a bomb threat targeting the capital's airport also proved to be a hoax.   

A month ago, thousands of hoax bomb threats were emailed to schools, kindergartens and municipal buildings across Lithuania. Latvia and Estonia were also flooded with similar emails. None of the bomb threats turned out to be real.

 

By Augustas Stankevičius

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NATO jets in Baltics scrambled 4 times over Russian aircraft last week

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – NATO's fighter jets policing Baltic airspace were last week scrambled four times to identify and escort Russian aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea in violation of flight rules, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

NATO's jets intercepted an IL-20 attack aircraft on November 9, an IL-20 on two occasions on November 15, and an IL-20 again on November 17. An AN-26 transport plane was also identified during the November 17 scramble.    

Most of the Russian aircraft had not filed flight plans and some were not using their onboard transponders. All of them were in radio contact with the Regional Traffic Control Center. 

The NATO Baltic air policing mission is carried out from air bases in Lithuania and Estonia.

 

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25 pct of Lithuanians feel anxiety, stress caused by wars in Ukraine, Israel

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – The percentage of people in Lithuania who feel anxiety and stress has increased from 20 percent last spring to 25 percent, mainly because of the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Israel, according to the latest general index of emotional health, published in Lithuania for a second time this year.

Carried out by Spinter Tyrimai for the visipsichologai.lt platform, the survey showed that the share of people experiencing a slight increase in negative emotions decreased from 44 to 40 percent, bringing the overall rate of those experiencing emotional challenges almost unchanged at 65 percent.

According to the report, the overall rate of people feeling bad has been at 87 percent since the twice-yearly index of the public's emotional well-being was launched in the spring of 2022. A slight improvement was recorded last spring when index dropped to 64 percent. However, the curve started going up again this fall.

"This fall, the most common reasons for increased tension, anxiety or stress are the Russian war in Ukraine, the new war in Israel, the Gaza Strip and other unrest in the world. As many as 39 percent of respondents cited this reason, while the war was a source of negative emotions for 17 percent of the population last spring," Paulius Tamulionis, the head of Visipsichologai.lt, said.

Work and work-related problems is second reason for stress and anxiety as 19 percent currently feel tension, stress and anxiety at work, a slight change from last spring (22 percent).

The rise in inflation is the third reason as 14 percent cited it as the cause of their anxiety, up from 13 percent six months ago, followed by financial worries and poverty (10 percent, unchanged from last spring).

The survey shows that younger respondents (25-35 years old) are more likely to worry and feel more stressed, while people without a secondary education are the least likely to worry and feel stressed.

The survey involved 1,016 respondents aged between 18 and 75.

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Agreement on Lithuania's EUR 1 mln contribution to EBRD trust fund signed 

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste and Mark Bowman, Vice-President for Policy and Partnerships at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), signed in Vilnius on Monday an agreement on Lithuania's 1-million-euro contribution to the bank's trust fund.     

The EBRD Action for Equality and Gender Fund's Ukraine Program aims to create a business environment and develop human capital to enable employment opportunities for war veterans, people with disabilities and others affected by Russia's war in Ukraine.

Skaiste and Bowman also discussed the EBRD's investments in Lithuania and the bank's role in providing assistance to Ukraine.

 

 

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Lithuanian govt proposes allocating extra EUR 157 mln for roads next year

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – The Lithuanian government has tentatively agreed to allocate an extra 157 million euros for roads next year as some politicians, road workers and the presidential office propose suggest allocating more money for roads in the 2024 state budget.

The extra funding would be allocated to two projects – the reconstruction of the Vilnius-Utena road and the Via Baltica section from Marijampole to the Polish border, ministers agreed at an informal meeting on Monday, the Transport and Communications Ministry told to BNS.

The final decision will be made by the government on Wednesday, and it will then be submitted to the Seimas.

The reconstruction of the Vilnius-Utena road would cost an additional 40 million euros, and the money is expected to come from an increase in the heavy vehicle toll (vignettes). 

In addition, ministers agreed to step up EU investment in strategic road projects, in particular the Via Baltica section from Marijampole to the Polish border, which would receive an additional 117 million euros next year, Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste told BNS on Monday.

So far, EU funding for roads has been set at 41.8 million euros euros.

Last week, the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance Committee proposed to the government to consider allocating additional funding for the Road Maintenance and Development Program in the 2024 state budget.

Initially, next year's draft state budget earmarked 715.5 million euros for roads from three sources, and the amount will now go up to 872 million euros.

By Valdas Pryšmantas, Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuania allocates EUR 1 mln to Ukraine via to EBRD trust fund

VILNIUS, Nov 20, BNS – Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste and Mark Bowman, Vice-President for Policy and Partnerships at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, signed in Vilnius on Monday an agreement on Lithuania's 1-million-euro contribution to the bank's trust fund.

"This 1 million euros is part of Lithuania's broader strategy to support Ukraine to victory," Skaiste told reporters after the agreement was signed.

For his part, Bowman said Lithuania's contribution would allow the bank to continue helping Ukraine cope with the challenges posed by the Russian invasion.

"This fund is done by the critical will to support our investments in Ukraine as it is facing very significant challenges in terms of war force management, dealing with large numbers of refugees who have left the country and internally displaced people, and also with those mobilized for its all war efforts, in addition to the challenges of reintegrating veterans and disabled people," Bowman said.

According to the Finance Ministry, Lithuania is a third country to contribute to the fund, following earlier contributions from Japan and Taiwan. Lithuania is expected to transfer its 1 million euro contribution to the fund by the end of the year.

The EBRD has invested 208 million euros in Lithuania in 2022, Skaiste pointed out.

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 21, 2023

VILNIUS, Nov 21, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 21, 2023:

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to attend a virtual G7+ format meeting on assistance to Ukraine.

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