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IN THIS ISSUE:
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – The following events are scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Lithuania:
PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to take part in the EU Council's preparatory video conference at 3 p.m.
THE SEIMAS to hold plenary sittings at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to participate in the so-called "government hour" at the Seimas at 2 p.m.
DEFENSE MINISTER Arvydas Anusauskas to take part in EU defense ministers’ formal meeting.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Russia's membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council must be suspended, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said after a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"Putin is ruthlessly destroying cities in Ukraine, shedding civilian blood and completely ignoring humanitarian law. These brutal war crimes must be documented and judged accordingly. I strongly expect Russia's membership in the UN Human Rights Council to be suspended in the near future," he said in a press release on Monday evening.
Nauseda "underlined that the UN's principled stance on Russia's brutal war crimes was of utmost importance as it carried great moral weight and countered the Kremlin's propaganda".
Established by the UN General Assembly in 2006, the Human Rights Council has 47 member states.
Lithuania became the council's full member for three years on January 1, 2022.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – The Lithuanian parliament is to debate and vote on Tuesday on a resolution calling for an embargo on energy resource imports from countries that are carrying out or supporting military aggression against Ukraine.
The draft resolution, signed by 50 MPs from across the political spectrum, calls on the government to take immediate and decisive action to enforce the embargo on Russian energy resources, completely abandon Russian oil, gas and electricity, and decide on alternatives.
It urges the government to come up with a plan to compensate Lithuanian households and businesses for the economic consequences of Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, along with the necessary legislation and decisions.
According to the document, Lithuania buys more than 3 billion euros' worth of energy resources (oil, gas and electricity) from Russia annually.
MP Rima Baskiene of the Political Group of Democrats "For Lithuania" says Lithuania should seek to completely stop using energy resources from countries hostile to it, and Liberal MP Eugenijus Gentvilas believes that the embargo should cover not only Russia or Belarus, but also countries that support the aggressors.
By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – A delegation of Taiwanese officials, businesspeople and scientists is to visit the Center for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC), Vilnius University and the parliament on Tuesday, the second day of their visit to Lithuania.
The Taiwanese are scheduled to participate in a seminar on talent and technology, and a seminar on supply chains and markets at the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, and to meet with the parliamentary group for relations with Taiwan.
The meeting will focus on high-tech investment opportunities in Lithuania and on broader high-tech cooperation between Lithuania and Taiwan.
On Monday, the delegation met with Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite, and visited the factory of the IoT device manufacturer Teltonika, the FTMC laser technology cluster, and the laser manufacturing companies Ekspla, Light Conversion and Eksma.
In February, Taiwan opened a joint research center on semiconductors and their materials in Vilnius to help implement precision machinery and semiconductor projects.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuania has so far registered over 26,900 war refugees from Ukraine, including almost 11,700 minors, official statistics showed on Tuesday.
Vilnius' registration center has registered the largest number of refugees, at 9,347, followed by Alytus with 2,903, Klaipeda with 1,968, Kaunas with 1,934, Marijampole with 1,366, and Siauliai with 1,026 people.
Out of the Migration Department's ten territorial units, the largest number of refugees has been registered by the Vilnius unit, at 1,805, followed by the Klaipeda unit with 1,391, the Siauliai unit with 1,026, and the Kaunas unit with 973 people.
Some 1,980 refugees have been registered in the past 24 hours alone, including 816 minors.
Of the total number of war refugees registered so far, 3,216 are children under the age of six.
Most of the war refugees have applied for a temporary residence permit on humanitarian grounds.
According to the United Nations, more than 3.5 million people have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24. A total of over 10 million people are thought to have fled their homes.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 4,299 new coronavirus infections and 11 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Tuesday morning.
Some 3,620 of the new cases were primary, 676 were secondary and three were tertiary.
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has declined by several dozen to 1,325, including 64 ICU cases.
Around 997,700 people in Lithuania have tested positive with the coronavirus at least once since the start of the pandemic, and the death toll has reached over 8,700.
The 14-day infection rate now stands at 2,095.1 per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 45.1 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.
A total of 515 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 on Monday, including 74 with their first dose and 372 with a booster shot.
Some 69.7 percent of the Lithuanian population have received at least one jab so far.
All of the latest fatalities were aged over 70 years, and four of them were fully vaccinated.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Tuesday a resolution calling for the suspension of Russia and Belarus from UNESCO activities.
The document, which passed with 113 votes in favor, none against and no abstentions, calls for the suspension of Russian and Belarusian participation in UNESCO committees, intergovernmental councils and programs in the fields of culture, education, science and information policy.
"Perhaps no one needs to be told what damage the aggressor is doing in Ukraine today by destroying civilian objects and what damage it is doing to cultural heritage," Vytautas Juozapaitis, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Culture, said when presenting the draft resolution to the Seimas.
The MP noted that it is not possible to exclude Russia from UNESCO because it is a founding member of the organization.
"Kazan, a subject of the Russian Federation, is scheduled to host the UNESCO [World Heritage Committee] session this summer, and the issue of UNESCO protection for Kaunas modernist architecture is to be decided there," Juozapaitis said.
"It is probably the highest form of cynicism when an aggressor that literary destroys cultural heritage, people, cultural objects and all scientific achievements, organizes such a high-level conference in its den," he added.
The resolution notes that the destruction of cultural heritage and education, science and cultural institutions is a war crime, adding that the destruction of Ukraine's cultural heritage means damage to the cultural heritage of the humanity as a whole.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuania is ready to close its seaport of Klaipeda to Russian ships. but it is still coordinating the move with neighboring countries, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Tuesday.
"Such a draft has been prepared, but the process of coordination with our neighbors is still underway," she told reporters. "It would be better if it were a regional project, a regional decision, but there is no agreement with other countries yet."
Ideally, it should be an EU-wide decision that would eliminate "all possibilities of arbitration", the prime minister noted.
"But those arbitration possibilities are probably limited: ports in Lithuania and elsewhere in Western Europe are perhaps not directly complimentary," she said. "So, it's important for us to come to an agreement in our neighborhood, but I think we will manage to do so."
Transport ministers from Lithuania and other neighboring countries are planning to turn to the European Commission over the issue, according to Simonyte.
"If there is no decision, no clearer movement, I think we will continue to coordinate this among us," she added.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – The government is working on special legislation to manage the assets of Russian oligarchs frozen in Lithuania due to EU sanctions, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Tuesday.
"Various solutions are possible, depending on what the assets are. Obviously, we'll need certain legislative amendments, and we're working on these now," she told reporters. "One of the solutions could be temporary administration, something that we don't have in Lithuanian law."
The Financial Crimes Investigation Service said on Monday that over 13 million euros' worth of funds and other assets had already been frozen in Lithuania because of the sanctions imposed by the EU on Belarus and Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
"Obviously, solutions are needed for various assets that have been frozen because their shareholders are subject to sanctions, and the government will come up with these solutions," Simonyte said.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Poland's oil group Orlen, the owner of Lithuania's sole crude refinery, is planning to completely stop buying Russian oil in the near future, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Tuesday.
"As far as I know, the company [Orlen Lietuva] itself intends to abandon [Russian] crude oil in the near future," Simonyte told reporters when asked if it was realistic for Lithuania to stop all of its energy imports from Russia. "It's up to the company to decide, because it is Orlen that is buying [crude], not the state."
"As far as I know, the company is very close to the stage when it will no longer be buying Russian oil and will no longer be using it for refining," she added.
Orlen Lietuva Deputy CEO Audrius Daugnora has said recently that it would not be difficult for the company to stop refining Russian oil, because it has been diversifying its crude oil sources since 2014.
In recent years, Russian oil accounted for about two-thirds of crude processed by the refinery, but now "the numbers are turning the other way round", according to the official.
Orlen said in early March that it was intensifying crude oil supplies to its refineries from alternative routes and had agreed with Saudi Aramco on the purchase of five additional North Sea oil tankers, with some of the crude to go the refinery in Mazeikiai, in northwestern Lithuania.
The Polish group said last year that it that was buying 57 percent of crude for its refineries from Russia under long-term supply contracts, another 8 percent from Saudi Arabia and the rest on the spot market.
By Giedrius Gaidamavičius
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuanian lawmakers on Tuesday gave their initial backing to proposed amendments on one-off payments to highly qualified Ukrainians and other foreigners fleeing the war, as well as to companies that will employ professionals Lithuania lacks.
MPs accepted the proposed amendments to the Law on Employment, expected to help attract more highly-qualified professionals from abroad and help skilled refugees from Ukraine.
The amendments will be further discussed in May.
The amendments stipulate the payment of a one-off relocation allowance of around 3,000 euros (4.1 minimum monthly wages) for such workers, and up to 5,256 euros (7.2 minimum monthly wages) to cover companies' costs of recruiting highly-skilled workers abroad.
Such payments would be made to persons after six months of work and companies 12 months from the start of the contract.
Under the proposal, Ukrainians would be exempt from the list of professions with lacking workers, if they have not resided in Lithuania for at least five years, and a lower salary threshold of around 1,750 (before taxes, 2.4 MMW) would also apply.
The Ministry of Social Security and Labor says the amendments would require 5.1 million euros this year, 7.1 million euros in 2023 and 9.6 million euros in 2024.
By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda is calling a meeting of the country's National Defense Council on Wednesday.
"Military support to Ukraine and the strengthening of Europe's eastern border will be discussed," presidential adviser Tomas Berzinskas told BNS on Tuesday.
The NDC meeting will take place on the eve of a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday.
The president-chaired Lithuanian NDC includes the president, the prime minister, the speaker of the Seimas, the minister of national defense and the chief of defense and hold meetings to discuss and coordinate the most important national security and defense issues.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS - Taiwan vows to offer strategic proposals to Lithuania's semiconductor industry, says Eric Huang, head of the Taiwanese representation office in Lithuania.
"So, we are going to talk with a lot of companies, research centers and government institutions and we will (…) form some of the suggestions of strategies for Lithuanian companies and government (…) of the semiconductor industry," he said after meeting with members of the Seimas of Lithuania's Parliamentary Group for Relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan) in Vilnius on Tuesday.
"I think the best way to quickly move on is to combine the technology of Lithuania and Taiwan, making synergy, first. So, now we are looking now at a project to combine laser technology of Lithuania and Taiwan semiconductor technology. So, that will be a project to move into third generation semiconductor industry," he said, hoping that information on the projects will be announced as soon as possible.
Matas Maldeikis, chairman of the Seimas parliamentary group, says the Taiwanese have already identified specific companies and areas where they see investment opportunities.
"They are particularly interested in the laser industry. They agree to take their employees for training and then return them to Lithuania, but this would take a longer time. We need faster results. We have already heard the dates and we are talking about the amounts", Maldeikis said.
On Monday, members of the Taiwanese delegations also met Lithuanian Minister of the Economy and Innovation Ausrine Armonaite, visited IoT device manufacturer Teltonika's production facility, the Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology, and laser producers Ekspla, Light Conversion and Eksma.
By Giedrius Gaidamavičius. Snieguolė Balčiūnaitė
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda met with William J. Burns, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, in Vilnius on Tuesday to discuss the latest security situation in the region and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
After the meeting, the president emphasized the importance of information provided by the U.S. intelligence both before and after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the presidential press service said.
"There is war on the eastern border of the EU and NATO, and the unity and cooperation of the West are now more relevant than ever in various formats, including the exchange of up-to-date information between intelligence services," the president said.
As the geopolitical situation in the region is tense, the role of intelligence and the information it provides significantly contribute to national and regional security, Nauseda said.
The CIA director's visit to Vilnius was not pre-announced.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – The Lithuanian Seimas on Tuesday adopted a resolution on the embargo on imports of energy resources from Russia and other countries carrying out or supporting the ongoing military aggression against Ukraine with 117 votes in favor of the resolution, no votes against and no abstentions.
The document calls on the government to propose solutions to end the import and use of Russian oil and natural gas as soon as possible.
The Seimas proposes t the Government to accelerate the strategic project to synchronize Lithuania's energy system with continental European networks, and to prepare legislation enabling companies to terminate their contracts on the purchase of Russian resources. The government is also urged to urgently submit proposals on the development of renewable energy sources and to promote home production of electricity.
Moreover, the government is also urged to submit to the Seimas as soon as possible a plan for the compensation of economic consequences and increased energy costs for the Lithuanian population and businesses, including necessary legislation and decisions.
"It is not so much a matter of urging, but of shaping a very clear political will that we need to move away from energy dependence because, based on the latest OECD data, Lithuania remains the most dependent on Russia for energy resources among the OECD countries," Vytautas Bakas said while introducing the draft resolution ahead of the vote.
By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS - Hungarian airline Wizz Air has launched three new routes from Vilnius and Kaunas and resumed flights to five more destinations.
Flights to Barcelona in Spain are available since Monday as well as to Athens in Greece, and the airline will fly from Kaunas to Eindhoven in southern Netherlands since March 28.
Moreover, flights to Belfast in Northern Ireland, Billund in southern Denmark, Doncaster in northern England, Yerevan in Armenia and Nice on the Mediterranean coast have also been resumed, the company said.
"We are responding to our customers' needs by offering them more flights, resuming popular routes and adding new destinations across Europe," Zsuzsa Trubek, Wizz Air's head of corporate Communications, said in a statement.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuania has facilitated conditions for workers from Russia and Belarus and their family members to move to Lithuania, based on a order by Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite, entering in force on Wednesday and applicable during the state of emergency.
According to the order, companies from Russia and Belarus planning to transfer their employees to Lithuanian companies of the same group after February 24 due to the war in Ukraine will be able to do so under a special simplified procedure.
The order foresees that employees and their family members arriving on this basis will be required to apply for a temporary residence permit in Lithuania, and will not need a work permit in Lithuania or a special decision by the Employment Service.
Last week, Minister of the Economy and Innovation Ausrine Armonaite said that thousands of IT specialists from Belarus and Russia would be coming to Lithuania in the near future.
VILNIUS, Mar 22, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Tiesday attend a preparatory European Council session and called for expanding the existing sanctions for Russia, especially in the energy sector.
"Russia is funding its bloody action in Ukraine with the money we pay them for oil and gas. This cannot continue. We cannot fund terrorism with our own money," the Lithuanian president said. "The new sanctions package must include tough sanctions on Russia's energy sector."
This would stop Russia from financing the war against Ukraine, Nauseda said.
The virtual EC meeting was attended by European Council President Charles Michel, as well as representatives of Finland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Croatia.
The Lithuanian leader stressed that the EU must urgently diversify its sources of energy imports and get rid of its energy dependence on Russia.
The upcoming EC session should discuss both the provision of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and practical steps towards rapprochement with the EU, Nauseda said.
Speaking of the Russian invasion, the president stressed the need to create humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of people from Ukrainian cities surrounded and shelled by Russian troops.
The growing number of war refugees in Europe also made it necessary to provide assistance mechanisms for countries hosting war refugees, Nauseda added.
VILNIUS, Mar 23, BNS – The following events are scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, 2022 in Lithuania:
PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to chair a meeting of the State Defense Council at 10 a.m., followed by a press conference at 11.20 a.m.; to meet with representatives of the country's parliamentary parties to discuss Lithuania's strategic guidelines for the foreign, security and defense policy at 3.10 p.m.
SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to chair a meeting of the Board of the Seimas at 9 a.m.; to attend a meeting of the State Defense Council meeting at 10 a.m.; to hold a virtual meeting with her Irish counterpart Seán Ó Fearghaíl at 1 p.m.
THE CABINET to hold its regular meeting and sitting at 1.30 p.m.