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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, May 13, 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

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

Lithuanian, Polish defmins to discuss military cooperation

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

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

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

Poland is one of Lithuania's key strategic partners.

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


Vilnius hosts Ukrainian Days

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

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

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

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

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

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3 irregular migrants prevented from entering Lithuania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lithuania reports 162 new COVID-19 cases, one death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lithuanian defmin against new national defense tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lithuania, Poland will mull joint arms purchases – minister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Long-term threat"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suwalki Corridor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(corrects the headline and the lead)

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

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

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

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

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

"Long-term threat"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suwalki Corridor

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, May 16, 2022

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

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

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May 16 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, April 22, 2022

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Germany ready to “essentially contribute” to formation of NATO brigade in Lithuania
  2. EU Commission approves EUR 6.4 b Cohesion Fund investment in Lithuania
  3. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, April 22, 2022
  4. Baltic prime ministers to discuss efforts to beef up regional security in Riga
  5. Nauseda to discuss energy independence from Russia with Lithuania's EU commissioner
  6. Japanese culture and sakura blossom festival kicks off in Lithuanian Capital of Culture
  7. Kaunas to celebrate centenary of Lithuanian basketball, unveil sculpture of James Naismith
  8. Lithuania reports 1,154 new COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths
  9. Number of Ukrainian war refugees registered in Lithuania rises to 47,800
  10. Lithuania turns 18 irregular migrants away on border with Belarus (expands)
  11. Military support for Ukraine must be swift and effective – Lithuanian president
  12. Lithuanian conductor, composer Abarius passes away at 92
  13. Lithuania ready to scale up training for Ukrainian troops – formin
  14. Lithuanian postal operator warns about potential delays in mail delivery to China
  15. Lithuania ready to scale up training for Ukrainian troops – formin (expands)
  16. Lithuanian PM: LNG terminals in all three Baltic states will be needed
  17. Germany ready to “essentially contribute” to formation of NATO brigade in Lithuania (expands)
  18. Lithuania to build EUR 12 mln worth workshop for IFVs in Rukla
  19. Berlin does its best to help Ukraine, but burden can't fall on all Europeans – formin
  20. LNG terminals in all three Baltic states will be needed – Lithuanian PM  (expands)
  21. Baerbock praises German firms for staying in Lithuania despite China's pressure
  22. Baltics see sanctions on Russian gas, oil as key element in next package – Lithuanian PM 
  23. Over 40 countries join Lithuania's call to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine – PM
  24. Lithuanian actor, monk Marciulynas passes away in South Korea 
  25. Eastern Europe's 1st NBA Basketball School opens in Vilnius
  26. Lithuanian minister in Kyiv: 'absurd' that Russia chairs UNESCO heritage committee   
  27. Lithuanian minister in Hague: justice must triumph in Ukraine
  28. Lithuania ranks 10th in EU for number of registered Ukrainian refugees
  29. Lithuania's national pavilion opens at Venice Biennale 
  30. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, April 25, 2022

Germany ready to “essentially contribute” to formation of NATO brigade in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Berlin is ready to essentially contribute to the formation of a NATO brigade in Lithuania in place of the existing battalion, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Vilnius on Friday adding that a decision of the whole Alliance was necessary for the deployment of a larger unit in the country.

“We are currently discussing the new defense concept with our NATO partners, therefore it is important that we act decisively together as an alliance and not as individual foreign ministers. It is important to be together during the process,” she said during a joint news conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“If NATO decides that [the battalion] shall be reinforced to the level of a brigade, we, as the Federal Republic of Germany, will essentially contribute to that. I’ve understood that there is a necessity, there is a need, and Germany will take respective actions,” the German minister added.

Battalions of international allies were deployed in the Baltic countries and Poland back in 2017 as a way to deter Russia. NATO's multi-national battalion stationed in Lithuania is currently led by Germany, which has deployed approximately 900 troops in the country.

The region’s countries seek to reinforce those battalions to the level of a brigade in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

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EU Commission approves EUR 6.4 b Cohesion Fund investment in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – The European Commission on Friday adopted its Partnership Agreement with Lithuania, laying down Lithuania’s investment strategy worth 6.4 billion euros in cohesion policy funding for the period 2021–2027.

Compared to the period of 2014–2020, the amount decreased by approximately one-fourth, Lithuania's European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius said calling, however, to taking into account the current level of Lithuania’s development and support for post-pandemic economic recovery allocated last year.

“We received approximately 8.4 billion euros in the previous period but Lithuania’s current level of development is way different from what it was eight years ago. Including 2.2 billion euros approved by the EU last year within the framework of the Economic Recovery and Resilience Facility, the amount of financial support is broadly the same,” he told BNS on Friday.

According to the commissioner, 2.1 billion euros would be earmarked to support the green transition that would allow renovating more than 4,000 multi-apartment buildings, 1.8 billion euros would be allocated to measures to address social problems, reduction of poverty and income inequality, nearly 1 billion euros – to the transformation of the country’s economy, and another nearly 1 billion euros – to urban development.

By Valdas Pryšmantas

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, April 22, 2022

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Friday, April 22, 2022:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at 9 a.m.; to meet with European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius at 10.30 a.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to meet with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in Riga.

DEFENSE MINISTER Arvydas Anusauskas to meet with CHIEF OF DEFENSE Valdemaras Rupsys at 10 a.m.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to meet with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.

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Baltic prime ministers to discuss efforts to beef up regional security in Riga

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Prime ministers of the Baltic countries will meet in Riga on Friday to discuss joint efforts to beef up regional security amid Russia’s war in Ukraine and preparations for the forthcoming NATO summit in Madrid.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will also discuss ways to ensure energy security of the three countries while weaning off Russia’s energy supplies

Also, the leaders of the three Baltic governments will talk about the tightening of sanctions against Russia and Baltic support for Ukraine.

As NATO prepares to adopt a new security concept for its June summit, Lithuania and the other Baltic states are pushing for the multi-national battalions deployed in the region to be converted into brigades, thus significantly increasing the number of troops present in the countries.

The countries in the region also want more air and air defense systems and other capabilities. They say this is needed not only to deter Russia but to actually defend against it.

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Nauseda to discuss energy independence from Russia with Lithuania's EU commissioner

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda will on Friday meet with Lithuania's delegated EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius to discuss the issues of energy security and energy independence from Russia.

Ridas Jasiulionis, spokesman for the president, told BNS that Nauseda and Sinkevicius would also talk about support for war-ravaged Ukraine, its European integration as well as sanctions against Russia and Belarus.

Many Central and Eastern European countries, including Lithuania, call for the sanctioning of Russian oil and gas imports but certain European countries, including Germany, have been stalling this sanctioning process.

By Ramūnas Jakubauskas

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Japanese culture and sakura blossom festival kicks off in Lithuanian Capital of Culture

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – A three-day festival of Japanese culture and sakura blooming kicks off in Alytus, the Lithuanian Capital of Culture 2022, on Friday.

Guests will be invited to get to know Japanese culture through the folding of origami, the Japanese tea ceremony, the reading of haiku poetry, lessons in bonsai pruning, various workshops and kimono photoshoots.

On Saturday, festival guests would be greeted by Japanese Ambassador to Lithuania Ozaki Tetsu, Alytus, a town in Southern Lithuania, said on a website dedicated to its activities as the Lithuanian Capital of Culture 2022.

The program of the festival will also include a sakura planting ceremony, performances by judo clubs and other events.

The festival in Alytus will take place on April 22–23 and May 1.

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Kaunas to celebrate centenary of Lithuanian basketball, unveil sculpture of James Naismith

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, will on Friday celebrate the centenary of Lithuanian basketball and will unveil a sculpture of James Naismith, the inventor of the game.

“He invented basketball, without him we would probably not play basketball and would not have all those victories,” Mindaugas Gobikas, spokesman for the Lithuanian Basketball Federation (LKF), told BNS.

A plaque on the sculpture reads: “The sculpture dedicated to celebrate the centenary of Lithuanian basketball. The sculpture represents James Naismith – the inventor of basketball.”

The sculpture, which was created by Lukas Siupsinskas and cost 40,000 euros, is erected near the Lithuanian Basketball House on Santakos street.

A basketball court of legends and fans located nearby will be unveiled, too.

“It is a basketball court of a reduced size, which, over time, will be covered with round brass plates bearing the names of anyone willing to have his name written there,” Gobikas said.

The court was sufficient for 6,000 nameplates, he said adding that 100 plates dedicated to Lithuanian basketball legends would be unveiled on Friday.

Later, the Basketball House will host a festive commemoration of the centenary that will be attended by President Gitanas Nauseda, ex-President Valdas Adamkus, representatives of FIBA and NBA, municipal mayors, members of basketball community and basketball legends.

The first basketball game in Lithuania took place one hundred years ago, on April 23, 1922.

By Ramūnas Jakubauskas

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Lithuania reports 1,154 new COVID-19 cases, 5 deaths

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 1,154 new coronavirus infections and five deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Friday morning.

Some 994 of the new cases were primary, 156 were secondary and four were tertiary.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has decreased to 631, including 40 ICU cases.

The 14-day primary infection rate has fallen further to 514.9 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests down to 19 percent.

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

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

One of the latest fatalities was aged over 60 years and the others were aged 80 or over. Four of the deceased were fully vaccinated.

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Number of Ukrainian war refugees registered in Lithuania rises to 47,800

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – The total number of Ukrainian war refugees registered in Lithuania so far has risen to 47,800, including 19,600 minors, according to the latest official statistics published on Friday.

Some 447 people, including 149 minors, have registered with refugee registration centers or the Migration Department's units over the past 24 hours. The number of minors included 42 children under the age of six.

The average daily number of arrivals from Ukraine has fallen to 332 in the past seven days, from over 500 a week ago.

Some 15,800 people, or around a third of all refugees, have registered with the Vilnius registration center.

Of the total number of war refugees registered so far, 5,200 are children under the age of six, and 14,400 are minors aged between six and 18 years.  Another 2,200 are people aged over 65 years. 

Most of the arrivals are women and children and the majority of them have applied for a temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds.

According to the United Nations, over 5 million people have left Ukraine and more than 7.7 million Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia invaded its neighbor in late February.

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Lithuania turns 18 irregular migrants away on border with Belarus (expands)

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away 18 migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Friday morning.

The SBGS also reported that border guards and troops assisting them had not used their service guns in the past 24 hours.

Border guards refused entry to six migrants on Wednesday after recording no attempted illegal crossings in the previous five days.

Latvia has turned away two migrants on its border with Belarus in the past 24 hours. Polish border guards on Thursday denied entry to 10 irregular migrants.

A total of 1,372 people have been prevented from crossing from Belarus into Lithuania at non-designated places so far this year.

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

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Military support for Ukraine must be swift and effective – Lithuanian president

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Military support for Ukraine must be swift and effective, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda stated during a meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Vilnius on Friday.

He stressed that political and military support by European and world democracies was crucial for Ukraine at this time, the presidential office said in a press release.

“With the outbreak of a large-scale military offensive in the Donbas region, rapid and effective delivery of weaponry to Ukraine could become a decisive factor in this war. We no longer have time to hesitate, we must act decisively and quickly,” the press release quoted Nauseda as saying.

The Lithuanian president and the German minister discussed reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank.

Nauseda stated that NATO’s enhanced forward presence battalion should be expanded to a brigade-sized unit, air policing should be upgraded to air and missile defense, and forward presence should be switched to forward defense. He also called to strengthen the so-called Suwałki Corridor.

He thanked Germany for leading NATO forward presence battlegroup in Lithuania and for its contribution to the security of the Baltic region, and expressed his expectation that more German troops would be deployed to Lithuania in the near future.

The Lithuanian president also underlined that pressure by Western countries on Russia must be further increased by tightening sanctions in energy, finance, trade, and other sectors.

According to him, sanctions should also be imposed on Belarus, which is participating as a party to Russia’s war against Ukraine and allows the aggressor to deploy its troops in its territory.

Nauseda and the German foreign minister also discussed the prospects for Ukraine’s European integration.

According to the Lithuanian president, following Ukraine’s completion of the EU accession questionnaire this week, it is necessary to speed up the process of granting Ukraine EU candidate status.

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Lithuanian conductor, composer Abarius passes away at 92

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lionginas Abarius, former chief conductor of Lithuanian Song Festivals and composer, has died at the age of 92 in Vilnius.

“He passed away this night,” his daughter Daina Lazauskiene told BNS on Friday.

Born in Zarasai County in 1929, Abarius graduated from Tallat-Kelpsa Music School in Vilnius in 1953 and studied choral conducting at the Lithuanian Conservatory between 1953 and 1958.

He spent many years teaching at the Lithuanian Music Academy and headed its department of choral conducting between 1988 and 1995.

In 1960, Abarius was appointed as chief conductor of the Lithuanian Song Festivals and conducted the mixed choir of the Lithuanian Radio and Television between 1963 and 1981.

The composer and conductor left a great number of works, including books of canticles and masses, romances, poems, etc.

In 1967, Abarius was awarded the distinction of an honored artist of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Lithuania. In 1995, he was decorated with the Gediminas Order of the 3rd degree and was awarded Lithuania’s National Prize for Culture and Arts in 2016.

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Lithuania ready to scale up training for Ukrainian troops – formin

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – With the West stepping up its military support for Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that Vilnius is ready to train Ukrainian troops how to use modern weaponry being supplied to the country and to scale up the existing training program accordingly.

“If our partners need to train Ukrainian troops how to use advanced equipment, Lithuania may offer the competence of our instructors, equipment, training areas and other necessary assistance,” he said during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Vilnius on Friday.

“We provide training to Ukrainian troops already hence we see no obstacles for scaling up the training program,” the Lithuanian minister added.

Lithuania is currently training Ukrainian troops how to use American anti-tank weaponry.

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Lithuanian postal operator warns about potential delays in mail delivery to China

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – The Lithuanian postal operator Lietuvos Pastas (Lithuanian Post) has warned about potential delays in the delivery of mail sent from Lithuania to China starting from early April as the postal service of China has temporarily suspended international mail acceptance.

Lietuvos Pastas reported on Friday that it continued to accept mail addressed to China but warned that its acceptance might be suspended temporarily taking into account the situation.

The closure of Ukrainian airspace for civilian aircraft due to the war and changes in airlines’ routes to avoid Russia’s territory had led to difficulties in mail delivery to other Asian countries, in particular Japan, the Lithuanian postal operator explained.

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Lithuania ready to scale up training for Ukrainian troops – formin (expands)

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – With the West stepping up its military support for Ukraine, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has said that Vilnius is ready to train Ukrainian troops to use modern weaponry being supplied to the country and to scale up the existing training program accordingly.

“If our partners need to train Ukrainian troops to use advanced equipment, Lithuania may offer the competence of our instructors, equipment, training areas and other necessary assistance,” he said during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Vilnius on Friday.

“We provide training to Ukrainian troops already hence we see no obstacles for scaling up the training program,” the Lithuanian minister added.

Lithuania is currently training Ukrainian troops to use American anti-tank weaponry.

Berlin stated earlier this week that it would train Ukrainian soldiers to use German-made Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers, which, as reported, would be supplied by the Netherlands.

Asked whether Lithuania could train Ukrainian troops to use that equipment, given that Vilnius had also purchased German-made howitzers, Landsbergis said that Lithuania was ready to do that but “decisions are made by officials responsible for defense, be it Berlin or other capitals”.

“My task is to invite not to forget that we can do that,” he said.

Landsbergis added that Lithuania was suitable for this mission due to both geographical proximity and experience.

“Lithuania is close to Ukraine geographically. Similarly, we have an advantage of being familiar with the German military,” he said.

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Lithuanian PM: LNG terminals in all three Baltic states will be needed

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – With Latvia and Estonia planning to build their own liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, the prime minister of Lithuania, which already has such a facility, believes that all three will be needed.  

"I'd hardly see any risk of something becoming redundant, especially if the European Union's steps to stop importing Russian gas are long term and sustainable," Ingrida Simonyte said at a joint press conference with her Latvian and Estonian counterparts on Friday.  

The Lithuanian prime minister was commenting on the question of whether the LNG terminals planned to be built in Latvia and Estonia would cause friction among the three Baltic countries. 

 

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Germany ready to “essentially contribute” to formation of NATO brigade in Lithuania (expands)

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Berlin is ready to essentially contribute to the formation of a NATO brigade in Lithuania in place of the existing battalion, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Vilnius on Friday adding that a decision of the whole Alliance was necessary for the deployment of a larger unit in the country.

“We are currently discussing the new defense concept with our NATO partners, therefore it is important that we act decisively together as an alliance and not as individual foreign ministers. It is important to be together during the process,” she said during a joint news conference with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“If NATO decides that [the battalion] shall be reinforced to the level of a brigade, we, as the Federal Republic of Germany, will essentially contribute to that. I’ve understood that there is a necessity, there is a need, and Germany will take respective actions,” the German minister added.

Battalions of international allies were deployed in the Baltic countries and Poland back in 2017 as a way to deter Russia. NATO's multi-national battalion stationed in Lithuania is currently led by Germany, which has deployed approximately 900 troops in the country.

The region’s countries seek to reinforce those battalions to the level of a brigade in response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.

"Security from Russia"

NATO’s strategy of deterrence, which had been in force thus far, was no longer suitable in the Baltic countries, Baerbock said adding that the Alliance had to be ready to combat a potential threat and defend itself immediately in this region.

“The previous NATO’s deterrence logic is no longer sufficient in the Baltic countries… Such an approach is no longer suitable,” the Germany foreign minister stated.

The experience of Ukrainian towns that had been attacked by Russian forces and later retaken by Ukrainian troops had shown that “security from Russia” was necessary, she stressed.

“Putin’s Russia forces to choose a new course,” Baerbock said.

“Response – in the first centimeter”

The German minister stressed that the German troops whom she would visit in Rukla, Jonava District, later on Friday, stood “shoulder to shoulder with Lithuanian soldiers”.

“Germany will continue to participate by contributing and reinforcing long-term presence of NATO troops,” she said.

Landsbergis emphasized in his turn that Russia’s actions had radically changed the security environment, which should be reflected in the decisions that would be adopted by the NATO summit in Madrid in summer.

He noted that, in addition to more troops, Lithuania also needed more air defense systems, military equipment, other weaponry.

“The most important change is a strategic change so as to make sure that we are no longer stuck in a position where we respond later if we are attacked. The response should be immediate, in the first centimeter,” the Lithuanian minister said.

Baerbock assured that those issues would be discussed “in the coming weeks”.

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Lithuania to build EUR 12 mln worth workshop for IFVs in Rukla

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – With Lithuania holding talks on the second stage in the project on acquisition of Vilkas fighting vehicles, a 12-million-euros contract to build a workshop for infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) in Rukla, Jonava District, has been signed.

The Defense Ministry reported on Friday that premises for the workshop, which would repair armored tracked and wheeled vehicles, trucks and equipment, would be built in the territory of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas Mechanized Infantry Battalion.

The workshop complex would also include a washing area, a shed for equipment, as well as areas for vehicle inspection and painting.

The envisaged building of approximately 5,000 square meters will be the biggest workshop of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.

Construction works are planned to be finalized in July 2023. A respective construction contract was signed between the Infrastructure Management Agency under the Ministry of Defense and private company Jungtiniai Projektai last week.

“The future workshop is closely related to the IFVs acquisition program being implemented by the Lithuanian Armed Forces, which is particularly important for ensuring national security. The workshop, once installed, will ensure maintenance of combat equipment of the Lithuanian military,” a press release from the Defense Ministry quoted Deputy Defense Minister Vilius Semeska as saying.

Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry initiated talks on the second stage in Vilkas Infantry Fighting Vehicle acquisition project. According to the deputy minister, a contract on new armored vehicles could be signed as early as in summer.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces will be reinforced with more than 120 additional Infantry Fighting Vehicles of Boxer type. Some of them will be armed with a 30 mm cannon, and others – with a 12.7 mm machine guns.

If the contract is signed, the delivery of new infantry fighting vehicles will be launched in late 2023–early 2024.

Earlier Lithuania purchased approximately 90 Vilkas IFVs. Their delivery will be completed this year.

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Berlin does its best to help Ukraine, but burden can't fall on all Europeans – formin

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Berlin is doing all it can to help Ukraine in the face of Russia's continued aggression, but the burden of war cannot be placed on the shoulders of all Europeans, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Vilnius on Friday.

"We want to and will do everything to support Ukraine [and] to help it to the best of our ability," she told reporters.

However, Germany's top diplomat added that there is "a bitter reality" to be faced.

"We have a responsibility to prevent the war from falling on the shoulders of 450 million EU citizens, so we are talking about individual steps," she said. 

Central and Eastern European countries are calling for EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas, but Germany and other member countries that are dependent on Russian energy resources are blocking these efforts.  

However, Baerbock said earlier this week that her country intends to stop importing Russian oil by the end of the year.  

"We have a plan to phase out oil by the end of the year, together with other EU countries," she said.

According to the German foreign minister, it would be difficult to cut off oil imports from Russia immediately, because that would affect product and fuel prices across Europe.

"I don't think you should promise things you can't deliver," she said. 

In Baerbock's words, this has to be done consistently and "for good".

However, she did not say if the bloc's sixth package of sanctions might include an embargo on Russian oil.

The German foreign minister added that her country will eventually wean itself off Russian gas, but did not specify by when it could do so. 

Baerbock said the EU will continue to press Russia until Ukraine is free and secure.

"There cannot be a ceasefire at any price. We will not accept a dictatorial peace," she said. "Only Ukrainians can decide on their future."   

In recent years, Berlin has drawn a great deal of criticism from Central and Eastern European countries over its close economic ties with Moscow, especially over Nord Stream 2, a German-Russian gas pipeline whose launch was suspended in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Berlin's lack of leadership in putting pressure on Moscow has prompted several protests outside the German embassy in Vilnius in the past month.

 

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LNG terminals in all three Baltic states will be needed – Lithuanian PM  (expands)

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – With Latvia and Estonia planning to build their own liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, the prime minister of Lithuania, which already has such a facility, believes that all three will be needed.  

"I'd hardly see any risk of something becoming redundant, especially if the European Union's steps to stop importing Russian gas are long term and sustainable," Ingrida Simonyte said at a joint press conference with her Latvian and Estonian counterparts on Friday.  

The Lithuanian prime minister was commenting on the question of whether the LNG terminals planned to be built in Latvia and Estonia would cause friction among the three Baltic countries. 

In Simonyte's words, Lithuania's Klaipeda LNG terminal and Latvia's Incukalns gas storage facility are not sufficient to meet the needs of the broader Baltic gas region "from Finland down to Poland". 

"The interconnections that are already in place or are about to come on stream – the GIPL link [between Lithuania and Poland] is due to open in early May – allow us to take a much broader view of the issue," she said.  

"The infrastructure that exists in all countries is important. The storage facility is in Latvia and the Klaipeda terminal is in Lithuania. That is not enough to fully meet all the needs."

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said that Latvia cooperates with Estonia which is planning to purchase a floating LNG facility this year, but added that this would be a short-term project.

"If we are looking at the development of the gas market in the medium term, there is another argument for Latvia to build a different type of terminal that would use the Incukalns gas storage facility. And it would be cheaper in the medium term [...] for every consumer," he said. 

 

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Baerbock praises German firms for staying in Lithuania despite China's pressure

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday praised German businesses for staying in Lithuania despite pressure from China to pull out of the country.

She said Berlin supports Lithuania in its diplomatic row with Beijing that broke out last year.

"We stand united in our support for our partner in the World Trade Organization," Baerbock told reporters in Vilnius. "Not a single German company has bowed to China's threats and left Lithuania."  

"We do not allow ourselves to be divided," she added.

Lithuania angered China by allowing Taiwan to open its representative office in Vilnius under the name "Taiwanese" instead of "Taipei". 

In retaliation, Beijing downgraded diplomatic ties with Vilnius and blocked Lithuanian exports.

In response, the European Commission in late January launched a case at the WTO against China over possible violations of international trade rules.

According to diplomats, Beijing also pressed multinationals to sever ties with Lithuania or face exclusion from its market. 

Among those publicly named was Germany's automotive giant Continental, which has an automotive components plant in Lithuania.

 

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Baltics see sanctions on Russian gas, oil as key element in next package – Lithuanian PM 

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS –  Discussions on sanctions on Russian gas and oil are not easy, but all three Baltic countries have agreed that this must be a key element of the bloc's next sanction package, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Friday. 

"We believe that this is a key element of the future sanction package, but it has to be agreed on, so that these sanctions are implemented," she said at a joint press conference with her Latvian and Estonian counterparts.  

Simonyte noted that an embargo on Russian gas and oil would have a significant impact on its economy. 

"It is not a very big secret that the Russian economy and the Kremlin regime are extremely dependent on the flow [of money] they receive for raw materials and, above all, for energy resources – oil and gas," the Lithuanian prime minister said. 

"Any reduction or disappearance of this source of funding would therefore have a very significant impact on Russia's economy and its ability to continue to finance the war," she added. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that the approval of all EU countries is needed for such an embargo, which requires convincing the states that are still heavily dependent on Russia's energy resources.

Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins believes that tougher sanctions against Russia should have been introduced earlier.

"We are working and will continue to work with our partners toward our goal of isolating the Russian economy so that they have as little money as possible to finance their ruthless war machine," he said. 

 

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Over 40 countries join Lithuania's call to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine – PM

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – More than 40 countries around the world have joined Lithuania's call to investigate Russia's war crimes in Ukraine, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Friday. 

"Lithuania initiated the so-called Hague process back in late February, requesting an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia and Belarus under the Rome Statute," Simonyte said at a joint press conference with her Latvian and Estonian counterparts in Riga.  

"More than 40 countries from all over the world have now joined this call," she added.

The prime minister also said it is important "to keep international efforts focused on ensuring that those responsible for war crimes do not escape accountability".

Lithuania was the first country to ask the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russia and Belarus.

 

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Lithuanian actor, monk Marciulynas passes away in South Korea 

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuanian actor and Buddhist monk Kestutis Marciulynas, also known as Bo Haeng Sunim, passed away in South Korea on Friday, the Hwa Gye Sa Seoul International Zen Center said.

"We have the sadness to announce the passing of Lithuanian Monk Bo Haeng Sunim, at the age of 60 (monk age 21), on the 22nd April 2022," it posted on Facebook.

Marciulynas took his vows as a Buddhist monk in 2001. He had lived and practiced meditation in South Korean temples for the past 20 years.

He published a book entitled "Nabi, or the Theatre of Life" several years ago.  

 

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Eastern Europe's 1st NBA Basketball School opens in Vilnius

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – NBA Basketball School, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe, opened in Vilnius on Friday to develop and promote the sport among children.

Representatives of the NBA, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation and Vilnius Municipality, who unveiled the initiative on Friday, said the new school will organize NBA camps for children, international tournaments and other high-level events that will help promote basketball and improve the skills of young players.

"We are delighted. It's an amazing moment. It's our first NBA school in Eastern European countries. We have a couple in Madrid, in Italy, in Greece, but never in this part of our beloved European countries," Jesus Bueno Pascual, vice-president of NBA Europe, told a news conference in Vilnius. 

The official said the school will not only run special basketball programs for children, summer camps and other NBA events.

"We can also help coaches, we can also help other clubs, the local federation or stakeholders to develop physical clinics, physical events here – not only for kids that are playing here, but for everyone in Lithuania," he said.  

"Hopefully, they'll play in the professional leagues in Lithuania, professional leagues somewhere else and, hopefully, one day, they'll play in the NBA. But the purpose is not to develop players for the NBA. It's to develop basketball among the community, among young people to show them how beautiful our game is."  

NBA Basketball School will be run by Vilniaus Krepsinio Mokykla (Vilnius Basketball School), a municipal body. The venue can accommodate around 1,400 spectators at a time. 

Vilnius Deputy Mayor Valdas Benkunskas said the municipality has invested more than 5 million euros in the project.    

Mindaugas Balciunas, secretary general of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, underlined that this will be a "permanent program", rather than a temporary project.

The highlights of the program this summer include visits by former famous NBA players and other events under the NBA brand, which will allow communicating them internationally, according to him.

 

By Ignas Jačauskas

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Lithuanian minister in Kyiv: 'absurd' that Russia chairs UNESCO heritage committee   

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys, who is visiting Kyiv on Friday, described as absurd the situation where Russia, which waging war in Ukraine and destroying the country, is chairing UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. 

"Yesterday we heard the news that there will be no session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Kazan," the minister said in a press release. "The Saint Sophia Cathedral, which we visited today, is a symbol of the history and statehood of Ukraine, a grand and culturally rich country."

"We would like to once again emphasize the absurdity of the situation in which Russia is still the chair of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, whose aim is to preserve, not to destroy," he said. 

Kairys is visiting Ukraine together with Polish Vice Prime Minister and Culture and National Heritage Minister Piotr Glinski at the invitation of Ukraine's Culture and Information Policy Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko, according to the press release. 

"The purpose of their visit is to support Ukraine in countering the aggression of the Russian Federation on the cultural and information fronts," it said.

Russia announced this week that it has indefinitely postponed the June meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Kazan, which was due to consider an application from Lithuania's second-largest city of Kaunas to include its modernist architecture on the World Heritage List.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says this might mean that Russia expects to host the session in the second half of the year.

Kairys believes, however, that Moscow had been informed through diplomatic channels that a number of countries would not attend the session in Kazan.

Lithuania's position is that Russia, which is destroying cultural heritage in Ukraine, should be removed as the chair of the World Heritage Committee and that another venue should be chosen for the committee's session. 

Landsbergis has said Lithuania "will pursue this goal, including through our diplomats". 

 

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Lithuanian minister in Hague: justice must triumph in Ukraine

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS –  Lithuanian Justice Minister Evelina Dobrovolska said that justice must triumph in the face of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine as she met with representatives of international justice institutions in The Hague on Friday. 

"The efforts of all of us will remain in the history books. We must preserve faith in justice for future generations. That is why we must strive in every way to ensure that justice triumphs," Dobrovolska said in a press release. 

"In the face of the brutal military aggression by Russia and Belarus against independent Ukraine, we must use all possible algorithms to bring war to criminal responsibility as soon as possible," she said. 

In Dobrovolska's words, the solidarity of all countries, the involvement of the non-governmental sector and the use of Eurojust as a coordinator of member states' actions are key to achieving these goals.

Vilnius will host on May 6 an international conference on how to ensure that perpetrators of the crime of aggression are punished, according to the Justice Ministry. 

In The Hague, Dobrovolska met with Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), to discuss the court's investigation into Russia's war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine, as well as possibilities for cooperation.

 

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Lithuania ranks 10th in EU for number of registered Ukrainian refugees

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuania ranks 10th in the EU in terms of the number of officially registered Ukrainian refugees, according to data from the European Commission's Blueprint network.

In terms of the number of refugees per capita, however, Lithuania ranks third among all EU countries, except for Greece which did not provide data, with a ratio of 1.66 percent.

According to the latest figures from the Commission, 2,061,556 refugees from Ukraine have been registered under temporary protection across Europe. In total, the United Nations estimates that over 5 million people have fled the country since the start of Russia's military invasion.

Lithuania's latest official statistics showed on Friday that almost 48,000 refugees from Ukraine have been registered in the country so far, but it is believed that the actual number could be considerably higher.

Ninety-nine percent of the officially registered refugees in Lithuania have Ukrainian citizenship and 40 percent are minors.

 

 

By Ignas Jačauskas

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Lithuania's national pavilion opens at Venice Biennale 

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – Lithuania has opened its national pavilion at the Venice Biennale, featuring Gut Feeling, a project by Robertas Narkus, the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in Vilnius said on Friday. 

A major highlight of the opening ceremony was a performance by Silvana Imam, a famous Swedish rapper of Lithuanian descent.

"I have already heard from several critics that the Lithuanian pavilion is the punkiest one," Narkus said in a press release. "It is great to get such feedback. The project is really crazy. Despite all the apocalyptic moods and contexts, it fills the audience with optimism".  

The Lithuanian pavilion has already been visited by the Venice Biennale jury, journalists, art critics and members of the public and has received initial feedback, according to Neringa Bumbliene, its curator. 

"We have heard comments that the piece is visually compelling, photogenic, dynamic, witty and close to today's reality," said Bumbliene.

"It is also very pleasing that it overlaps with the aesthetics of the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams, which, like Robertas' project, is full of color, craftsmanship, diverse materials, forms and a strong connection to the present day and cultural heritage," she said. 

The organizers describe Gut Feeling as "a multi-layered work balancing between an honest desire to change the world, a persistent belief in the promise of collaboration, the egocentric ambitions of the artist, flirtation with financial structures and technological progress, and humor".

According to Narkus, the Lithuanian pavilion is a gateway to a town where the first of the two spaces houses a fictitious factory and the other the office of the fictitious organization. 

"In this factory, together with David Zilber, a professional chef, we use fermentation processes to process invasive seaweed and create a product that has the power to remind us of our inner voice and draw attention to our intuition," he said.  

According to the creator, the pavilion is about a journey inwards, about getting closer to what is small, sometimes frightening or seems alien.

 

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, April 25, 2022

VILNIUS, Apr 22, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Monday, April 25, 2022:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to give an interview to Good Morning Britain at 9 a.m.  

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, on a visit to Berlin, to meet with Annett Witte, CEO of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, and Karl-Heinz Paque, the chairman of the board, at 4:15 p.m. and to meet with the local Lithuanian community at 7 p.m. 

THE CABINET to hold a meeting at 10:30 a.m.  

OTHER EVENTS

A third marathon of Monday rallies in support for Ukraine's freedom fight to get underway in Vilnius' central Cathedral Square at 6 p.m.

 

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Apr 28 2022

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