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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, January 2, 2024

Jan 04 2024

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus
  2. No Lithuanians reported as affected by Japan earthquakes – ministry 
  3. Commission to review Lithuanian citizenship of Liepa, Kudimov in January 
  4. Lithuania completes 1st phase of JLTV procurement
  5. Lithuanian PM says lengthy discussions on tax reform were necessary (media)
  6. Plans in Lithuania to call up prepared reserve troops up to 60 years of age for training
  7. Migration body finds Lithuanian citizens with family ties to EU-sanctioned persons
  8. TOP-10 events in Lithuania in 2024 - BNS REVIEW
  9. Lithuania should put off discussion on military draft for women – PM 
  10. Presidential advisor proposes changing ForMin's ambassador appointment procedure
  11. Any parlt majority in Lithuania will find it difficult to return to tax reform – advisor
  12. NATO jets in Baltics scrambled once over Russian aircraft last week
  13. Lithuania receives 1st batch of Spanish mortars
  14. 2023 was 3rd warmest year on record in Lithuania
  15. Presidential advisor proposes changing ForMin's ambassador appointment procedure (updates)
  16. Lithuanian president calls on West to boost Ukraine's air defense after Russian attack

Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours recorded no attempts to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Tuesday morning.

Latvia reported no attempts at illegal border crossings on Monday. Fifty-six irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Sunday, according to the latest available information.

More than 2,500 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 almost 22,000 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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No Lithuanians reported as affected by Japan earthquakes – ministry 

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – The Foreign Ministry said no Lithuanians had been reported as affected in a sequence of 21 earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.0 or higher that struck central Japan in just over 90 minutes on Monday.

"There are no affected (Lithuanians)," Paulina Levickyte, the ministry's spokeswoman, told BNS on Monday. "The embassy is in contact with Lithuanian citizens and is monitoring the situation." 

She added that "there are no registered and permanently residing" Lithuanian citizens in the region hit by the earthquakes.

 

By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė

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Commission to review Lithuanian citizenship of Liepa, Kudimov in January 

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – The Citizenship Commission is expected to examine the Lithuanian citizenship issues of Ilze Liepa, a ballet dancer who lives in Russia, and Yuri Kudimov, a Russian businessman, in January. 

"The Citizenship Commission's meeting is scheduled for January," Ridas Jasiulionis, spokesman for President Gitanas Nauseda, told BNS. "Citizen Ilze Liepa will be invited to the meeting."

He confirmed that the issue of Kudimov's citizenship was also on the agenda of the meeting.

Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite has formally asked Nauseda to strip Liepa and Kudimov of their Lithuanian citizenship. 

The initiative to deprive Liepa, who holds both Lithuanian and Russian passports, of her Lithuanian citizenship came after the ballet dancer's interview with Russian media in which she condemned the Baltic states for their behavior and expressed her support for President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

In Lithuanian authorities' assessment, Liepa, through her actions and public statements, poses a threat to Lithuania's security interests and openly expresses support for the aggressor state Russia.

After Lithuania launched the procedure for revoking her citizenship, the ballet dancer said she had no intention of changing her stance.

The State Security Department (SSD) says in its report to the Migration Department that by denying and publicly justifying Russia's war against Ukraine, Liepa openly denounces the Baltic states for their policies that are not in line with the Kremlin regime's interests.

The intelligence agency also says that Liepa is loyal to the Russian regime and could be used by Russian state institutions or intelligence services that operate against Lithuania.

The daughter of Maris Liepa, a Soviet-era Latvian-born ballet dancer, was granted Lithuanian citizenship by way of exception in 2000.

It was stated at the time that the Moscow Bolshoi Theater soloist had been granted citizenship for her collaboration of more than a decade with Lithuanian ballet performer Petras Skirmantas.

Regarding Kudimov, the SSD says that he obtained Lithuanian citizenship in 1998 by concealing some personal information, including the fact that he was an intelligence officer of the KGB of the Soviet Union.  

The public broadcaster LRT has reported that when Kudimov arrived in Lithuania in 1997, he was looking to start a waste management business, but later abandoned his plans. 

On December 16 of the same year, he asked the then President Algirdas Brazauskas to grant him Lithuanian citizenship by way of exception and received it a little over a month later.

Kudimov was allegedly involved in non-transparent schemes for Russian funding of electoral campaigns in Western countries, and he still maintains contacts with influential persons in Russia with links to Russian intelligence services.

The SSD considers Kudimov's long-standing contacts with persons linked to Russian intelligence services and high-ranking officials, as well as his activities in economic sectors of strategic importance to the Russian regime and his ties to Russian influence operations abroad, a threat to Lithuania's security interests

Under the Law on Citizenship, a person granted Lithuanian citizenship by way of exception may lose it if their actions pose a threat to Lithuania's security interests and if the person publicly express support for a state that poses a threat to the security interests of Lithuania or other EU member states, or of their allies.

Based on this provision, Nauseda has stripped Margarita Drobiazko of her Lithuanian citizenship. The Russian ice dancer, together with her Lithuanian husband Povilas Vanagas, participated in projects organized by the wife of Russian president's press secretary.

 

By Ignas Jačauskas

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Lithuania completes 1st phase of JLTV procurement

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – The Lithuanian Defense Ministry has completed the first phase of procuring Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTVs).

The last batch of 50 JLTVs arrived in Lithuania last Friday, fulfilling the ministry's 2019 contract with the US government for 200 JLTVs.

"The procurement of JLTVs from the US is one of the most important steps in the modernization of the Lithuanian Armed Forces," Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said in a press release on Saturday.  

The last JLTVs under the first contract were to be delivered in 2024, but the vehicles were manufactured and delivered earlier at the Defense Ministry's request, he noted.   

The Lithuanian Armed Forces took delivery of the first batch of 50 JLTVs in the summer of 2021. Another 50 JLTVs came in 2022 and the last two batches of 50 each arrived in 2023.

This year, deliveries of JLTVs, manufactured by US Oshkosh Defense, will start under a contract signed in 2022 for the procurement of an additional 300 units.

This will bring the Lithuanian Armed Forces' total fleet of JLTVs to 500 units.

The JLTV is an advanced all-terrain vehicle with a high level of crew protection. 

 

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Lithuanian PM says lengthy discussions on tax reform were necessary (media)

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte says that her government did not undertake a tax reform immediately after the 2020 elections because it spent a lot of time discussing the matter with social and political partners, a strategy that "did not necessarily prove to be correct". 

"A lot was invested in the search for some kind of minimal conflict, at least at the beginning of the discussion, and it is obvious that this strategy did not necessarily prove to be correct," she said in an interview published on Tuesday.

The prime minister said the Finance Ministry had devoted about a couple of years to the debate, adding that the discussions were necessary, because otherwise the government would have been criticized for not having consulted anyone on the tax reform. 

She believes that the lengthy discussions were useful, as they have resulted in some proposals that will be revisited after the 2024 parliamentary elections. 

Tax reform was one of the current government's key objectives. It passed the first reading in the parliament last summer, but got stuck afterward due to disagreements among coalition partners on certain issues. 

The reform proposals included increasing taxation on self-employment under individual activity certificates, and broadening real estate taxation.

 

 

 

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Plans in Lithuania to call up prepared reserve troops up to 60 years of age for training

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Lithuania plans to call up troops from the prepared reserve of up to the age of 60 for training amid a deteriorating regional security situation.

Lithuanian lawmakers gave their initial backing to such an amendment at the end of the Seimas' fall session when 98 MPs voted in favor, there were no votes against and one lawmaker abstained. The amendments will now be considered by parliamentary committees.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chair of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense, who initiated the amendment, says there are some 38,000 active and about 80,000 prepared reserve troops in Lithuania.

"These are people who served before the active reserve, that is, more than ten years ago. After ten years, they are no longer called up for additional military training. But under the concept we are putting together, (...) these people could find their place within the defense plans via commandant's offices," the MP said.

In his words, prepared reserve troops should be trained to work at the commandant's offices in the event of martial law.

"The commandant's offices are the back-up system, fighting against diversion groups and protecting the facilities. We can see this function very clearly in Ukraine, and it has proved effective. That back-up would be made up of troops from the prepared reserve and commandment riflemen, and their numbers are also growing, as well as of other combat persons, if we manage to find an algorithm, for example, how to train our hunters and check who also want to integrate into that back-up system," the CNSD chair said.

According to him, under the existing law, members of the prepared reserve cannot be invited to take part in military exercises. Therefore, it is proposed to establish that members of the prepared reserve up to the age of 60 would partake in exercises or training in accordance with the procedure established by the defense minister. The exercise or training programs would be determined by the chief of defense.

Moreover, members of the prepared reserve called up for exercises or training would be provided with clothing, food and official accommodation, would be paid for these days and would be provided with social guarantees.

The amendments are proposed to enter into force on July 1, 2024.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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


Migration body finds Lithuanian citizens with family ties to EU-sanctioned persons

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – The Migration Department has said that its ongoing probe has found a number of Lithuanian citizens with family ties to individuals subject to EU sanctions. 

Evelina Gudzinskaite, the department's director, told BNS that she could not yet provide the exact number of such people in Lithuania.

"The investigation is not over yet, so I cannot say exactly how many," she said.

The probe was launched after it emerged that two of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich's children, Anna and Arkady, hold Lithuanian passports and may have helped their father circumvent international sanctions.

According to Gudzinskaite, her department has to check thousands of people and plans to complete the work in January.

"We are testing automated solutions. We cannot conduct investigations for each case, but we have narrowed the scope of our probe and check the data available in our registries," the director said.

"If we find that there are some links based on our registers, we will check those links," she said. 

According to the Interior Ministry, once the Migration Department has established how many relatives of EU-sanctioned persons have Lithuanian citizenship, other authorities will look into whether they are involved in schemes to circumvent the sanctions.

The ministry has also told BNS that legal amendments are currently being finalized to allow stripping people of Lithuanian citizenship acquired by descent.

Last year, the parliament amended the Law on Citizenship to allow depriving a dual citizen of their Lithuanian citizenship granted by way of exception if the person publicly expresses support for a state that poses a threat to Lithuania or its allies' security interests.

The law has so far been applied once to revoke the Lithuanian citizenship of Margarita Drobiazko, a Russian ice dancer. A citizenship review process has been launched for Ilze Liepa, a Russian ballet dancer.  

Among other things, the Interior Ministry has asked the State Security Department to check 800 foreign nationals granted Lithuanian citizenship by way of exception.

 

By Augustas Stankevičius

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TOP-10 events in Lithuania in 2024 - BNS REVIEW

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS - The BNS news agency lists the most interesting and important events planned in Lithuania for this year.

CHAMPIONSHIP. The year will start with a dive into the world of ice, music and dance as the 2024 European Figure Skating Championships to take place at Kaunas' Zalgiris Arena on January 10-14. Lithuania will host an ice dancing competition of this level for the first tie in history.

THE SEASON OF LITHUANIA IN FRANCE. On March 12 in Paris, Lithuanian and French Presidents Gitanas Nauseda and Emmanuel Macronas will inaugurate one of the key cultural events for both countries. The Seasons of Lithuania in France will take place in various cities and regions of France from 12 September to 12 December as around 100 projects will be selected to introduce contemporary Lithuanian culture to the French public through various cultural and artistic forms, discussions and presentations.

SUMMIT. The presidents of thirteen European countries will meet in Vilnius on April 11 to discuss ways to strengthen transatlantic cooperation, build resilient infrastructure and develop stronger ties. The countries of the Three Seas Initiative will also discuss assistance to the associated countries – Ukraine and Moldova.

ELECTIONS. Lithuanian citizens will have to go to the polls at least three, and probably five, times, to elect politicians and parties. The election marathon will begin with the first round of voting in the presidential election on May 12. The runoff, if needed, is planned for May 26. Lithuanian members of the European Parliament will be elected on June 9. A new Seimas will be elected in October, with the first round of voting scheduled for October 13 and the runoff will take place October 27.

REFERENDUM. For the second time in five years, Lithuania will try to change the Constitution and introduce multiple citizenship as voters will be asked on May 12 whether they are in favor of removing from the Constitution the clause that no one can be a citizen of Lithuania and of another country at the same time, except in individual cases.

PRESIDENCY. For the second time, Lithuania will chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from May 17 until November 13. One of Lithuania's key priorities will be to support war-torn Ukraine and to strengthen the Council of Europe's influence in Europe and the world as an organization that sets and upholds the standards of democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

SONG FESTIVAL. The COVID pandemic forced the traditional Lithuanian Song Festival to take a six-year break. However, the festival, marking the centenary anniversary, will take place in Vilnius and Kaunas this year, with over 35,000 participants.

SCIENCE ISLAND. On the occasion of the start of the academic year in September, Kaunas will open the doors to the world of science, technology, human and world knowledge on the Science Island. The complex took four years to build and the exposition to be put in place, and the whole project cost 35 million euros. The museum vows to show visitors the interaction between people, their environment and technology, and to show the stars up close in the most modern planetarium in Lithuania.

TERMS OF OFFICE. The terms of office of the heads of Lithuania's key statutory institutions are due to expire this year as Chief of Defense General Valdemaras Rupsys' term of office is set to expire in July, Police Commissioner General Renatas Pozela will serve until November and Rustamas Liubajevas, chief of the State Border Guard Service, will work until December.

LONG WEEKENDS. There will be five long weekends in Lithuania this year: February 16-18 February, March 9-11, March 31-April 1, June 22-24, and November 1-3.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Lithuania should put off discussion on military draft for women – PM 

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte believes that the discussion on mandatory military conscription for women should be postponed for the future.

"The discussion on whether young women should also be drafted is not a very easy one, because there would be a major cultural shift for many," Simonyte told the public broadcaster LRT in an interview published on Tuesday.

"That is why I would say that we can put off that discussion until a later time," she added. 

In mid-December, the government approved the Defense Ministry's proposed military conscription changes creating the legal prerequisites for universal male conscription. The proposals have yet to approved by the parliament.

Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says that if up to 5,000 people were called up per year, Lithuania's existing military resources would be sufficient to train them, thus not requiring significant additional financing. 

However, increasing the number of soldiers and implementing universal conscription would require the creation of new military units.

Drafting up to 7,000 conscripts annually would require setting up four additional battalions and allocating about 500 million euros over five years for infrastructure, weapons and equipment, according to the minister.  

The discussion on universal military conscription for men has intensified after Ukraine's failure to conduct a swift and successful counteroffensive against Russia and amid experts' warnings that Moscow, which is rebuilding its capabilities, could increase pressure on NATO in the future.

The Defense Ministry says the complete implementation of universal conscription would take at least six years.

The prime minister said that it would take about five years to train military officers, build infrastructure and acquire weapons.

 

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Presidential advisor proposes changing ForMin's ambassador appointment procedure

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Frederikas Jansonas, a chief advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, has proposed changing the Foreign Ministry's existing procedure for appointing ambassadors.

"Let's take the procedure for appointing Supreme Court justices where we have an open competition and everyone can apply. The Judicial Council, as the equivalent of the Foreign Ministry's attestation commission, evaluates, ranks in a sense and submits the whole list to the president," Jansonas told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

"I believe such a system at the Foreign Ministry would be good for everyone and it would be much more transparent, much simpler, there would be much less doubt as to who influences the choice of one or another name that is submitted to the president," he added.

His proposal came amid the recent public debate among the presidential office, the Foreign Ministry and members of the ruling block regarding the stalling appointment of some ambassadors. 

According to the chief presidential advisor, the list of participants in the selection process at the Foreign Ministry is currently not submitted to the president.

"The selection process should and could certainly be improved, Jansonas said.

In late December, Jansonas said that the dispute over the appointment of new ambassadors was due to the fact that the "statesmen" clan was trying to take over important positions. This group allegedly includes civil servants and officials who influence the key political and economic processes in Lithuania beyond their authority.

The position of Lithuania's ambassador to Poland has been vacant since September 7 when Eduardas Borisovas' terms of office expired. The embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

Nauseda has downplayed the stalling appointment of the country's ambassador to Poland and urged not to make a fuss out of the issue.

By Greta Zulonaitė

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Any parlt majority in Lithuania will find it difficult to return to tax reform – advisor

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS - The tax reform started and unfinished by the Lithuanian government right now is in a state that would make it difficult for any new parliament majority to get back to it, an advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda says.

"Probably the problem is not only that the tax reform itself has not been implemented to any extent.  The problem is that the very idea or the phrase "tax reform" is so messed up that it will be difficult for any new Seimas majority to get back to it," Frederikas Jansonas told Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

Asked what the president sees as a lack of political will in the Seimas or the government's decision-making in 2023, Jansonas mentioned the tax reform: "I think no one has doubt that the issue of tax reform was probably the one that rocked the whole boat".

The tax reform was one of this government's key goals. The Seimas gave its initial backing to the reform last summer, but the reform has since stalled as ruling coalition partners disagree on a number of issues. The reform included, among other things, higher taxes for holders of individual activity certificates and a broader real estate tax base.

By Valdas Pryšmantas

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NATO jets in Baltics scrambled once over Russian aircraft last week

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – NATO's fighter jets policing Baltic airspace were scrambled once last week to identify and escort Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea in violation of flight rules, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

Fighter jets took off on December 27 to intercept a Russian SU-24 that was flying in international airspace from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia and had no flight plan, had its onboard transponder off and was not in contact with the regional flight control center.

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

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Lithuania receives 1st batch of Spanish mortars

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Spanish-made EXPAL 120mm mortars, the Lithuanian Armed Forces' latest acquisition, have reached their arsenal, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. 

The first batch of EXPAL 120-MX2-SM mortars, ordered last year, arrived in the last days of last year, the ministry said. 

"This modern high-quality weaponry marks a significant enhancement to our indirect fire support capabilities," it posted on the X social platform. 

Mobile and versatile, the mortars systems have enhanced firepower and precision to enable the infantry and artillery to respond to tactical demands of indirect fire support operations, according to the ministry.

The mortars purchased by Lithuania have and effective range of up to 8 kilometers.

The contract with Spain's EXPAL Systems, S.A. was signed in the fall of 2022.

All procured mortars are to be delivered to Lithuania by this summer.

The value of the contract, which covers mortars and their components, totals around 9.8 million euros.

 

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2023 was 3rd warmest year on record in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS - 2023 was the third warmest year in Lithuania's history of modern weather observation as the annual average temperature reached 8.7 degrees Celsius, meteorologists confirmed on Tuesday.

"This year was the third warmest in Lithuania. 2019 and 2020 were warmer than 2023," Gytis Valaika of the Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service told BNS on Tuesday, adding that 2023 was 1.3 degrees warmer than the long-term average.

Daily air temperatures in Lithuania have been consistently measured since 1961.

September was the warmest month on record as the average temperature stood at 16.5 degrees Celsius, Valatka pointed out.

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Presidential advisor proposes changing ForMin's ambassador appointment procedure (updates)

Updated version: updates throughout

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Frederikas Jansonas, a chief advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, has proposed changing the Foreign Ministry's existing procedure for appointing ambassadors.

"Let's take the procedure for appointing Supreme Court justices where we have an open competition and everyone can apply. The Judicial Council, as the equivalent of the Foreign Ministry's attestation commission, evaluates, ranks in a sense and submits the whole list to the president," Jansonas told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

"I believe such a system at the Foreign Ministry would be good for everyone and it would be much more transparent, much simpler, there would be much less doubt as to who influences the choice of one or another name that is submitted to the president," he added.

The presidential office is proposing changes amid public disagreements over the appointment of the Lithuanian ambassador to Poland.

The chancellor of the President's Office wrote to the chancellor of the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, asking her to provide President Gitanas Nauseda with documents on the selection competitions held by the Foreign Ministry for the head of Lithuania's diplomatic missions, including the embassy in Poland, Ridas Jasilionis, spokesman for the president, told BNS on Tuesday night.

Jansonas says right now the president does not receive the list of participants in the selection process carried out by the Foreign Ministry.

"The selection process should and could certainly be improved," he said.

In late December, Jansonas said that the dispute over the appointment of new ambassadors was due to the fact that the "statesmen" clan was trying to take over important positions. This group allegedly includes civil servants and officials who influence the key political and economic processes in Lithuania beyond their authority.

The position of Lithuania's ambassador to Poland has been vacant since September 7 when Eduardas Borisovas' terms of office expired. The embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

Nauseda has downplayed the stalling appointment of the country's ambassador to Poland and urged not to make a fuss out of the issue.

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Lithuanian president calls on West to boost Ukraine's air defense after Russian attack

VILNIUS, Jan 02, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and other Baltic leaders have called on the West to provide Ukraine with more air defense.

They made such a call after another large-scale Russian bombardment of Ukraine.

"Ukrainians do wonders with the air defense the West has provided, but they need more," Nauseda posted on X on Tuesday.

Later in the day, Ukraine called on its allies to step up arms deliveries after another devastating Russian missile attack that took place almost two years after Moscow's invasion.

Other Baltic leaders have also sent calls to their Western allies.

By Vilmantas Venckūnas

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