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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, January 11, 2024

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Thursday, January 11, 2024
  2. Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus for 10th straight day
  3. Polish, Romanian foreign ministers to come to Vilnius ahead of Snow Meeting
  4. Economy minister, Swiss defense start-up to discuss drone production in Lithuania
  5. Lithuanian Agriculture Council decides to continue protests
  6. Lithuanian justice minister warns against populism in discussion about Russian schools
  7. Lithuanian economy minister, defense start-up to discuss drone production (corrects)
  8. Lithuania joins STRIKFORNATO HQ
  9. Air defense rotation in NATO's east would be proper response to Russia – Lithuanian formin
  10. Demining coalition in Vilnius discusses Ukraine's needs, possible partner contributions
  11. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, January 12, 2024

Upcoming events in Lithuania for Thursday, January 11, 2024

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Thursday, January 11, 2024.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to attend the Snow Meeting at 6.30 p.m.

THE DEFENSE MINISTRY

Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Dendias to pay a visit to Lithuania. The welcome ceremony to take place outside the Defense Ministry in central Vilnius at 11 a.m., followed by the ministers; joint press conference at 11.50 a.m.

SOCIAL PROTECTION AND LABOR MINISTER Monika Navickiene attending an informal meeting of the EU's Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Belgium.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to meet with his Romanian and Polish counterparts and the Greek defense minister; to hold a joint press conference with the Romanian foreign minister at 11.40 p.m.

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Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus for 10th straight day

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Lithuanian border guards recorded no attempts to cross into the country from Belarus illegally for the tenth day in a row on Wednesday, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Thursday morning.

Latvia reported five attempts at illegal border crossings on Wednesday, and ten irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Tuesday, according to the latest available information.

The SBGS notes that no attempts to enter Lithuania from Belarus illegally have been recorded so far this year.

Since the start of the migration crisis, there has been only one longer period when no foreign nationals attempted to cross the Lithuanian border illegally. It lasted for 12 consecutive days between February 18 and March 1 last year.

More than 2,500 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year.

Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of almost 22,000 people from crossing in from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

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

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

 

 

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Polish, Romanian foreign ministers to come to Vilnius ahead of Snow Meeting

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Foreign Ministers Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland and Luminita Odobescu of Romania are coming to Vilnius on Thursday ahead of the annual Snow Meeting of foreign and security policy experts. 

The ministers are to meet with their Lithuanian counterpart Gabrielius Landsbergis in the capital on Thursday.

The meeting between Landsbergis and Poland's new top diplomat will focus on strengthening regional security, long-term support for Ukraine and tightening sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has said in a press release.

The Lithuanian and Romanian ministers will discuss common European security trends and prospects, and possible responses to emerging challenges, as well as support for 'Kyiv's accession to NATO, and the European integration of Ukraine, Moldova and other countries, it said. 

 

 

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Economy minister, Swiss defense start-up to discuss drone production in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Lithuanian Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite on Thursday is presenting the government's plans to beef up the country's defense industry to the Swiss defense industry startup Unmanned Defense Systems (UDS). 

At their meeting, Armonaite and the UDS founders will discuss the prospects for manufacturing the company's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Lithuania, the Economy and Innovation Ministry has said in a press release. 

"The famous Catfish Target drone developed by UDS has been successfully used in battles in Ukraine, including the fight for the legendary Snake Island, and has received positive feedback from the Ukrainian Armed Forces," it said. 

The startup also produces other drones, including a reconnaissance UAV and a mapping UAV for civilian use.

 

 

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Lithuanian Agriculture Council decides to continue protests

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS - The Lithuanian Agriculture Council has decided to continue farmers' protests that took place on Monday as a new round of protests is planned for late January. 

"Executing the will of its members, the Lithuanian Agriculture Council has no choice but to start the second stage of protests when agricultural machinery will be brought to Vilnius. This action will require maximum concentration and effort from our farming community," the Lithuanian Agriculture Council said in a statement on Thursday. 

Its chair Ignas Hofmanas told the public radio LRT on Thursday that farmers plan to gather in Vilnius on January 23-26. 

On Monday, farmers across Lithuania lit bonfires to protest against the government's agricultural policy, increased excise duties on liquefied petroleum gas, the restoration of perennial meadows, and called for the resolution of the dairy crisis and other problems.

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Lithuanian justice minister warns against populism in discussion about Russian schools

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska said on Thursday that minority education in the country is facing problems, but they must be deal with by finding ways to help Lithuanian citizens obtain quality education rather than by closing schools.

"If we talk about national minority schools, whether Russian or Polish, there are challenges in terms of quality, exam performance, enrolment and teaching the Lithuanian language," Dobrowolska told the Ziniu Radijas radio station.

"I do wish there was no populism and I'd very much like to see education experts sitting down and discussing how to help our citizens," she added. 

The minister said that both national and international student achievement surveys indicate poorer results in schools in the regions and in national minority schools, but that addressing this issue requires a strategic vision rather than just "saying that we are replacing the schools of one national minority with schools in a different language".

She also noted that minority issues are usually brought into the spotlight in election years to mobilize voters.

Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakstas last week reignited the debate on Russian schools by saying that Lithuania should consider following the lead of Estonia and Latvia and scrap Russian-language education. 

Jakstas says that national minority schools teaching in the languages of EU countries or countries friendly to Lithuania could remain open. 

The ministry plans to draft a proposal on phasing out Russian schools in the coming weeks. 

The Department of National Minorities said last week that it did not support proposals to eliminate Russian as the language of instruction. 

The department believes that marginalizing one ethnic group would do more harm than good to the state and "destroy the structure of a multiethnic society that has been built over three decades".

The discussion on Russian schools resurfaced after an incident where teenagers attending a Russian school fired a pneumatic gun at a classmate because he said he was against the war in Ukraine. 

However, Jakstas urges against linking the renewed discussion on national minority schools to this incident.

 

By Milena Andrukaitytė

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Lithuanian economy minister, defense start-up to discuss drone production (corrects)

corrects the headline, lead to say that the startup is Lithuanian

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite on Thursday is presenting the government's plans to beef up the defense industry to Lithuania's defense industry startup Unmanned Defense Systems (UDS). 

At their meeting, Armonaite and the UDS founders will discuss the prospects for manufacturing the company's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Lithuania, the Economy and Innovation Ministry has said in a press release. 

"The famous Catfish Target drone developed by UDS has been successfully used in battles in Ukraine, including the fight for the legendary Snake Island, and has received positive feedback from the Ukrainian Armed Forces," it said. 

The startup also produces other drones, including a reconnaissance UAV and a mapping UAV for civilian use.

 

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Lithuania joins STRIKFORNATO HQ

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – Lithuania has joined the Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) HQ, the Lithuanian army said on Thursday.

Since 2020, Lithuania has been sending officers to the HQ as observers.

The accession ceremony was attended by Lithuania's Navy Commander captain (Navy) Giedrius Premeneckas, and he also met with Vice Admiral Thomas Ishee, commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, during the event. The two officers discussed the security situation in the Baltic Sea region and prospects for further cooperation.

Headquartered in Oeiraz, Portugal, STRIKFORNATO was established in 2012 after 13 NATO countries, including Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United US, signed a memorandum of understanding.

As part of deterrence and NATO's collective defense, the HQ ensures the planning and execution of joint naval operations, including anti-ballistic missile defense.

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Air defense rotation in NATO's east would be proper response to Russia – Lithuanian formin

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – NATO's rotational air defense presence in the Black and Baltic Sea regions would be an appropriate response to the Russian threat, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said as he hosted his Romanian counterpart Luminita Odobescu in Vilnius on Thursday.

NATO allies agreed on such a model last June, but it has not yet been implemented. The Baltic countries are currently in discussions with countries that could deploy air systems to the region.

"I believe a rotation of air defense both in the Black Sea region and in the Baltic region would be an appropriate response to the Russian escalation that is already taking place," Landsbergis at a joint news conference with Odobescu.

A Russian drone crashed on Romanian territory during Moscow's attack on Ukraine's port infrastructure last December, following a similar incident in September.  A Russian missile also entered Polish airspace in late December.

"Actions like the drone crashes, even if seemingly unintentional, are escalation. They would not be happening if Russia were not waging war against Ukraine," Lithuania's top diplomat said. 

Odobescu said that such incidents show how serious the security situation is not only in Ukraine but also in the Black Sea region.

The Romanian minister underlined the importance of implementing NATO's Vilnius summit commitments in order to beef up security.  

"One of these is related to security in the Black Sea region, but also with full implementation of regional plans and increased military presence in our region," she told the news conference. 

On the eve of the Vilnius summit last July, NATO approved new regional defense plans reflecting changes in the Alliance's strategy.

Previously, the approach was that the Baltic countries should try to hold off an offensive until allied reinforcements can arrive to help them. The new plans aim to ensure that NATO is ready to fight back immediately.

Call for deal on new Russia sanctions

Landsbergis also stressed the need to agree on the strongest possible new package of sanctions against Russia before the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine in late February. 

For her part, Odobescu said that her country will support Ukraine "as much as needed".

"Moreover, allowing Ukraine to achieve its objective according to its own choosing, rendering justice to the victims and fighting against impunity – all this remains a fundamental objective not only for Ukraine but also for us," she said. 

Romania remains firm in its position that only Ukraine has the political and moral legitimacy to decide whether it wants to negotiate with Russia.

At their meeting, the two ministers also discussed Romania's efforts to increase its capacity for transporting Ukrainian grain, and measures to support Ukrainian refugees.

According to the Reuters news agency, Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain exporters, and the Romanian port of Constanta has become Kyiv's largest alternative export route since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. 

 

By Greta Zulonaitė

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Demining coalition in Vilnius discusses Ukraine's needs, possible partner contributions

VILNIUS, Jan 11, BNS – The Lithuania-led demining coalition in assistance to Ukraine met in Vilnius on Thursday to discuss Kyiv's needs and partners' possible contribution, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said. 

The meeting was attended by officials from Ukraine's Defense Ministry and the Defense Staff of the Armed Forces, and representatives from 19 partner countries, joined via video link by representatives from six other nations, it said in a press release. 

"This demonstrates the unity of partner states not only in responding to urgent needs but also in supporting the long-term development of Ukraine's demining capabilities," said Vaidotas Urbelis, defense policy director at the Lithuanian Defense Ministry.

"This is the first working meeting where we sought to clarify Ukraine's needs in the area of demining and the specific contribution of each coalition partner state," he said. 

The Lithuania-led coalition aims to pool and coordinate existing and future demining assistance to Ukraine from donor countries.

A support fund is being set up to achieve the coalition's objectives, including the acquisition of tools and equipment for demining Ukrainian territory. 

 

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, January 12, 2024

VILNIUS, Jan 12, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Friday, January 12, 2024.

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to join "The Light of Victory" civic campaign at 8 a.m.; to meet with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola at 4.10 p.m.; to attend the ceremony of lighting commemorative bonfires at 5 p.m.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to join "The Light of Victory" civic campaign at 8 a.m.; to take part in a solemn line-up of freedom defenders at 11 a.m.; to attend a meting of freedom defenders at noon; to attend the ceremony of lighting commemorative bonfires at 7 p.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to meet with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola at 3.15 p.m., followed by a joint press conference at 3.50 p.m.

SOCIAL PROTECTION AND LABOR MINISTER Monika Navickiene attending an informal meeting of the EU's Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Belgium.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to meet with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

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Jan 17 2024

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, January 9, 2024

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Lithuania publishes 2024 military conscription lists
  2. Lithuanian actor Bagdonas' Belarusian wife has her residence permit extended
  3. Helicopter maintenance hangars to be opened at Siauliai Air Force Base in Lithuania
  4. No votes in Lithuania's parlt for tighter restrictions on Belarusians – chair
  5. No illegal border crossings from Belarus recorded in Lithuania for 8 days
  6. Lithuania's Viciunai could make moral choice – presidential adviser
  7. National minority schools in Lithuania are 'Soviet legacy' – advisor
  8. Presidential office, ForMin will soon discuss ambassadorial candidates – advisor
  9. Lithuania publishes 2024 military conscription lists (expands)
  10. Lithuania considers buying shares in Air Baltic – minister 
  11. Lithuanian Airports vows to invest EUR 250 mln over 27 years, serve 17 mln passengers
  12. ForMin: constitutional amendments needed for president to get ambassadorial candidate list
  13. Helicopter maintenance hangar opened at Siauliai Air Force Base in Lithuania
  14. Poland's Pekao mulls setting up branch in Lithuania, c. banker confirms  
  15. Lithuanian military plan to develop reconnaissance drone capability within 3 yrs
  16. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Lithuania publishes 2024 military conscription lists

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – The Lithuanian Armed Forces published this year's military conscription lists on Tuesday. 

A total of 27,291 Lithuanian citizens are on the lists, available online at sauktiniai.karys.lt, and 3,845 of them will be called up for a nine-month compulsory initial military service.  

Men aged between 18 and 23 are conscripted, but older people can volunteer for enlistment in the Armed Forces. 

 

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Lithuanian actor Bagdonas' Belarusian wife has her residence permit extended

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Lithuania's Migration Department said on Monday it had granted a new residence permit to actor Vladas Bagdonas' wife.

"On Friday, a decision was made (...) to issue a residence permit," Evelina Gudzinskaite, director of the Migration Department, told TV3's Demesio Centre (In Focus) program.

In late December, the media reported that Belarusian citizen Yelena Liopo had left Lithuania for her home country at the beginning of the month because of her expired temporary residence permit and the Migration Department was yet to make a decision on a new permit.

Bagdonas said earlier that Liopo had worked for the Belarusian state television.

By Saulius Jakučionis

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Helicopter maintenance hangars to be opened at Siauliai Air Force Base in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Helicopter hangars for storage and maintenance will be opened at the Lithuanian army's Air Force Base in Siauliai, northern Lithuania, on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said.

An administrative building with workplaces has also been built next to the helicopter garage.

According to the ministry, the hangars are equipped with spaces for aviation equipment, aviation armament, mechanical equipment and engine maintenance, the storage of aviation oils and special fluids, rescue equipment and drying crew suits. The hangars and all component maintenance rooms are equipped with a compressed air supply system.

The construction of the hangars cost about 3.6 million euros and was carried out by Tilta.

On the eve of the opening, Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas posted on Facebook that the hangars would be adapted to the storage and servicing of the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to be acquired by Lithuania.

The first UH-60M Black Hawks will be delivered to Lithuania next year.

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No votes in Lithuania's parlt for tighter restrictions on Belarusians – chair

VILNIUS, Jan 9, BNS – The Lithuanian parliament still lacks votes to tighten the existing restrictions on Belarusian citizens and put them on par with those imposed on Russians, Laurynas Kasciunas, chair of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, says.

Registered in December, the amendments propose restricting the issuance of residence permits for Belarusians, except for highly qualified workers, but they would also make it easier for Russian and Belarusian democrats to apply for national visas on humanitarian grounds.

"This is the compromise we propose. So far, in fact, there are no votes in the Seimas to do so," Kasciunas told the TV3 channel's Demesio Centre (In Focus) program on Monday.

Since last spring, Lithuania has a law in place on restrictive measures for Russian and Belarusian citizens, but the latter are subject to fewer of them.

Until May 3, the Russians and Belarusians are facing restrictions on obtaining Lithuanian visas and electronic resident status, but additional difficulties are also in place for Russian citizens regarding their entry to Lithuania, the purchase real estate, and their applications for residence permits in Lithuania are temporarily rejected.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda was initially of the position that Belarusian citizens should be subject to the same sanctions as Russians, but the Seimas overrode his veto and introduced softer restrictions for Belarusians citizens.

The amendments on the same restrictions for Russians and Belaruians were registered in December 2023 by Kasciunas and his fellow party members, Seimas Vice Speaker Paulius Saudargas and Audronius Azubalis.

Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite backs the proposal, but Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who also leads the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, have doubts.

By Saulius Jakučionis

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No illegal border crossings from Belarus recorded in Lithuania for 8 days

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have recorded no attempts to cross into the country from Belarus illegally for the past eight days, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Tuesday morning.

No attempts at illegal border crossings were recorded on Monday at the Lithuanian and Latvian borders, or at the Polish border on Sunday.

"Monday was the eighth consecutive day when no irregular migrants attempted to enter Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated locations, i.e. there have been no such cases this year," the service said.

The same situation was recorded last year from October 31 to November 7. Since the summer of 2021, when the migrant influx started, there has been only one even longer period of relative calm when no foreigners attempted to cross the Lithuanian border illegally. This happened between February 18 and March 1 last year, i.e. for 12 consecutive days.

Lithuanian border guards say it has to due with the cold weather recently and the consequences of the turn-back policy.

More than 2,500 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year.

Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of almost 22,000 people from crossing in from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

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

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

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Lithuania's Viciunai could make moral choice – presidential adviser

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Lithuania's Viciunai Group, which continues to operate in Russia and is therefore on the list of international war sponsors in Ukraine, does not violate the law but could make a moral choice, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on foreign policy issues, says, adding that the group's continues operations in Russia can be assessed in terms of both legal and moral aspects.

"There is certainly a legal aspect, another aspect is moral and, of course, the company could make a choice that is more on the moral side," Skaisgiryte told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

In her words, the company is not in breach of any legislation as the food industry is not subject to international sanctions.

Last week, Ukraine's National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) announced that it had added Viciunai, which owns the Vici brand, to add it to the list of international war sponsors because it continues its operations in Russia. This means that it is also included in the global World Check database of high-risk individuals and organizations to help identify and manage financial and reputational risks.

This is not good news for Lithuania, Skaisgiryte says.

"Certainly when the Ukrainians blacklisted this company, let's say it was not good news for Lithuania. To be fair, it should be said that this company is not the only one on the blacklist, there are companies from other countries, and the list is not very short," the presidential advisor added.

The owners of Viciunai Group say they have been unsuccessfully trying to sell their business in Kaliningrad since the spring of 2022 when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

By Valdas Pryšmantas

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National minority schools in Lithuania are 'Soviet legacy' – advisor

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS - National minority schools are a legacy of the Soviet era and we need to think about ways to better integrate young people attending them into Lithuanian society, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief foreign policy advisor to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, says.

"Russian schools, just like those of other national minorities, are a Soviet legacy. They existed in the Soviet times and they still exist today," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday. "We should probably not think about how to abolish them, we should think about ways to integrate national minority youth and children into Lithuanian life, how to make them speak Lithuanian very well, for example, when they leave school, so that they are able to pass the school graduation exam in Lithuanian and are able to fully integrate into the Lithuanian life."

Without a proper command of the Lithuanian language and a good knowledge of history and culture, national minorities youth cannot live a full life in the country, Skaisgiryte said.

"They are confined within the national minority, and this can be a problem because we still want all Lithuanian citizens to be integrated into life," Skaisgiryte said.

Her comment came after Lithuanian Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakstas last week reignited debate on whether Russian-language schools should be closed in Lithuania by following in the footsteps of the Estonians and Latvians. However, he later said he did not link this debate to the aforementioned incident.

The Education Ministry plans to draw up a proposal on gradually phasing out education in the Russian language over the next several weeks. Meanwhile, national minority schools where the education process is done using the languages of EU countries or countries friendly to Lithuania could continue, Jakstas says.

Under the existing law, local authorities in areas with traditionally large national minorities guarantee education in the language of the national minority at the request of the local community.

National minority schools mostly operate in southeastern Lithuania where children receive education in national minority languages in nearly 100 schools in nine municipalities.

According to the National Agency for Education, over 47,000 children attended educational establishments for national minorities, from kindergartens to schools, in the academic year of 2020-2021.

Around 14,000 pupils are now attending general education schools with Russian as the language of instruction, mostly in Vilnius, Visaginas and Klaipeda.

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Presidential office, ForMin will soon discuss ambassadorial candidates – advisor

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS - The presidential office plans to soon discuss ambassadorial candidates with representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief presidential foreign policy advisor, says.

"We plan to meet with the representatives of the Foreign Ministry soon to continue discussions on the ambassador to Poland, as well as on other positions that will open up already in this year's rotation," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

The presidential office and the Foreign Ministry in Lithuania are at loggerheads over the appointment of Lithuania's ambassador to Poland. The position has been vacant since September 7 when Eduardas Borisovas' terms of office expired. The embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

The Foreign Ministry says it proposed its candidate back in the fall of 2021 but President Gitanas Nauseda rejected the candidate.

Representatives for the Foreign Ministry say 14 selection procedures for this year's vacant ambassador positions were held last year, and the winners were submitted to the president in November, but no response on them has been received so far.

Speaking with reporters after a meeting of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday, Foreign Vice Minister Egidijus Meilunas said the ministry is now waiting for the presidents explanation as to why the candidate for ambassador to Poland, picked during a selection process, was deemed not suitable.

"If candidates are selected on the basis of objective, very clear criteria, then the answer as to why they are suitable or unsuitable should also be reasoned," Meilunas told reporters on Monday.

On Tuesday, Skaisgiryte told the Ziniu Radijas the Foreign Ministry has no prerogative to ask the president for clarifications.

"The president may indeed have his own reasons as he has the strategic picture, and it would probably not be the ministry's prerogative to ask him for an answer," the advisor said.

As the president and the Foreign Ministry still disagree on an ambassador to Poland, the chancellor of the president's office wrote to the Foreign Ministry's chancellor last week, asking her to provide Nauseda with documents on the selection procedures carried out by the ministry to fill the positions of the heads of Lithuania's diplomatic missions, including the embassy to Poland.

In response, the ministry said it could not provide such information as "there are simply no physical protocols".

Skaisgiryte has doubts about the transparency of the selection process because of such a response.

"This answer means that the cat is out of the bag. It's as if there was a selection process, as if some people took part in the selection, but it turns out that there is no collegial body that decides who is the most suitable on the basis of some kind of criteria. That is, people apply, they take part, but in the end it is the minister who decides. The minister, on his own, on the basis of unclear criterion, says that OK, this one suits me, this one does not suit me, this one suits me, this one does not suit me," the advisor said.

"This procedure is no different from the previous procedures, the procedures used by previous governments, and this government has heavily criticized them. And we remember the desire to de-politicize the process of appointing ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, but no de-politicization has taken place in this case," Skaisgiryte said.

The Foreign Ministry introduced selections for the positions of heads of diplomatic missions as of 2021, saying that this was an attempt to limit as much as possible the so-called political appointments where politicians or other persons from outside the diplomatic service are appointed as ambassadors.

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Lithuania publishes 2024 military conscription lists (expands)

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – The Lithuanian Armed Forces published this year's military conscription lists on Tuesday. 

A total of 27,291 Lithuanian citizens are on the lists, available online at sauktiniai.karys.lt, and 3,845 of them will be called up for a nine-month compulsory initial military service.  

Men aged between 18 and 23 are conscripted for military service. 

The first conscripts are expected to start their service at the Air Defense Battalion in Radviliskis in early February.  

Higher education students are not included in the lists, but they can be called up for one year after graduation until the age of 26.

Volunteer conscripts can serve until the age of 38.

This may be the last time the military draft is conducted under the current model as politicians are considering reforming the conscription system. 

The draft subscription reform, which would allow calling up more young men, passed the first reading in the parliament at the end of the fall session.  

The bill calls for drafting men aged 18 to 21 after school and it does not allow deferring service for higher education students.    

The reform would also allow conscripts to choose either six months or nine months of compulsory military service.  

The Defense Ministry says that up to 5,000 young men could be conscripted each year once the reform is implemented and that the legal framework put in place would allow Lithuania to transition to universal conscription in the future.

The parliament reintroduced the nine-month continuous compulsory initial military service in 2015.

 

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Lithuania considers buying shares in Air Baltic – minister 

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Lithuania is considering buying a stake in Latvia's national airline Air Baltic, Transport Minister Marius Skuodis said on Tuesday.

"I have already had two conversations with the Latvian transport minister about the possibility of Lithuania acquiring a stake in Air Baltic," Skuodis told reporters at Vilnius Airport. 

"I believe the conditions in such a case should involve some of the planes being based here and rotating from Lithuania," he said.

The possible terms of the deal are currently being discussed, according to the minister.

"As you know, Air Baltic is preparing for a public offering at the end of this year, so we will see whether or not these initial discussions can take some concrete form," he said.

Skuodis noted that Air Baltic could become the airline of all three Baltic states in the future. 

Air Baltic, which offers flights from all three Baltic capitals, last September hired STJ Advisors and Superia as its financial advisors for the planned IPO.

The airline's management sees the potential listing as a significant step towards a new level of development. 

Latvian Transport Minister Kaspars Briskens has said that Air Baltic's IPO could take place in the second half of this year, adding that this will depend on the situation in global aviation and financial markets.

The Latvian state owns 97.97 percent of Air Baltic, with the remaining shares held by Aircraft Leasing 1, a company owned by Danish investor Lars Thuesen.

 

By Goda Vileikytė

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuanian Airports vows to invest EUR 250 mln over 27 years, serve 17 mln passengers

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Lietuvos Oro Uuostai (Lithuanian Airports, LTOU), the operator of Lithuania's three airports, plans to invest another 250 million euros between 2025 and 2052 in further development of the ongoing projects once they are completed.

It also expects to serve around 17 million passengers a year in the future.

Following the completion of the ongoing construction of Vilnius Airport's departure terminal, around 180 million euros is expected to be invested in the reconstruction of the existing terminals and the construction of new ones during this period. Preliminary estimates suggest that investments at Kaunas Airport could reach around 50 million euros following the completion of the terminal expansion which will start this year, and around 20 million euros more could be invested in Palanda. 

Such expansion projects are part of LTOU's master plan presented on Tuesday. It has been prepared by NACO, a company owned by the Netherlands' Royal HaskoningDHV.

NACO consultants have carried out similar studies for Geneva, Helsinki, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok and other airports.

LTOU CEO Simonas Bartkus says Vilnius Airport alone is expected to handle up to 13 million passengers per year in the future.

A new arrival terminal is to be built at Vilnius Airport by 2027, and the existing terminal is to be renovated by 2028 with commercial space, and an underground Rail Baltica station is to be built underneath it by 2030, he said.

"Within the framework of this project, we have been actively working with the designers of Rail Baltica, and all these changes and all this airport development are planned to provide for a very convenient connection of Rail Baltica with the airport underground, so that people arriving at the airport could basically access the airport directly from the station," Bartkus told a press conference on Tuesday. 

Two more terminals are planned to be built by 2040, including one for Schengen and one for non-Schengen travelers. According to Bartkus, LTOU plans to finance the projects with its own funds.

"When we planned the entire airport development, we also considered sources of investment, (...) we could make it using our own funds," Bartkus said.

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ForMin: constitutional amendments needed for president to get ambassadorial candidate list

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – The Lithuanian Constitution would have to be amended for the president to get the full list of persons partaking in the process of selecting ambassadors, the chancellor of the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday amid the ongoing disagreements between the presidential office and the Foreign Ministry over the appointment of the country's ambassador to Poland.

Last week, Frederikas Jansonas, chief communications advisor to President Gitanas Nauseda, proposed changing the existing current procedure for appointing ambassadors to allow for information on all diplomats who participate in the selection process be handed over to the president, not only that on the Foreign Ministry's pick.

Foreign Ministry Chancellor Inga Cerniuk, however, says such a procedure would be in line with the Constitution as the latter stipulates that the government proposes candidates for ambassadors and the president appoints them.

"In this case, we are talking about the division of powers as enshrined in the Constitution. The government proposes, the president appoints. There are clearly constitutionally limited powers here, and one has the right to choose, the other has the right to reject, but there must be strong arguments for this," Cerniuk told BNS on Tuesday. "Giving away the whole list means giving away the whole right of submission. (...) If they want to get the whole list, it should be written in the Constitution that the president chooses the one he likes best and appoints him, and the ministry administers the process."

Speaking after the meeting of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs on Monday, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief advisor to the Lithuanian president on foreign policy issues, said the issue should soon be moving forward. However, Cerniuk has doubt about this as nothing has happened over the past few days.

"Maybe they have their own thoughts, but there have been no such indication from us. (...) There have been no additional changes from what we said yesterday, the day before yesterday, last week," she said.

The selection process is now much more transparent than in the past when politicians or others outside the diplomatic service were appointed as ambassadors and then given open-ended contracts, Cerniuk said.

The Foreign Ministry introduced selections for heads of diplomatic missions in 2021, saying that this was an attempt to limit as much as possible the so-called political appointments where politicians or other persons from outside the diplomatic service are appointed as ambassadors.

However, the president has the right to override the Foreign Ministry's selection process and nominate his own candidate, not necessarily of diplomatic rank, and, if agreed, to appoint them as an ambassador.

Cerniuk says the most suitable candidate is selected by a commission consisting of the minister, vice ministers, the chancellor and the political director.

As the president and the Foreign Ministry still disagree on an ambassador to Poland, the chancellor of the president's office wrote to the Foreign Ministry's chancellor last week, asking her to provide Nauseda with documents on the selection procedures carried out by the ministry to fill the positions of the heads of Lithuania's diplomatic missions, including the embassy to Poland.

In response, the ministry said it could not provide such information as "there are simply no physical protocols".

Speaking earlier in the day, Asta Skaisgiryte, chief presidential foreign policy advisor, has doubts about the transparency of the selection process because of such a response.

"This answer means that the cat is out of the bag. It's as if there was a selection process, as if some people took part in the selection, but it turns out that there is no collegial body that decides who is the most suitable on the basis of some kind of criteria. That is, people apply, they take part, but in the end it is the minister who decides. The minister, on his own, on the basis of unclear criterion, says that OK, this one suits me, this one does not suit me, this one suits me, this one does not suit me," the advisor said.

"This procedure is no different from the previous procedures, the procedures used by previous governments, and this government has heavily criticized them. And we remember the desire to de-politicize the process of appointing ambassadors and diplomatic representatives, but no de-politicization has taken place in this case," Skaisgiryte said.

However, the chancellor of the Foreign Ministry says that the point of de-politicizing ambassadors is to move away from the situation where people bypass the usual diplomatic career path and get appointed ambassadors, and not to eliminate politicians from the process.

"(The selection process involves - BNS) all people who see the candidate from different sides. (...) There is no politics, everyone is looking at their own area," Cerniuk said.

Representatives for the Foreign Ministry say 14 selection procedures for this year's vacant ambassador positions were held last year, and the winners were submitted to the president in November, but no response on them has been received so far.

Lithuania right now has no permanent representatives in Poland, Azerbaijan and Switzerland after the terms of the previous ambassadors expired.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Helicopter maintenance hangar opened at Siauliai Air Force Base in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – A helicopter hangar for storage and maintenance was opened at the Lithuanian army's Air Force Base in Siauliai, northern Lithuania, on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said.

It is adapted for Black Hawk helicopters Lithuania is buying. They should be delivered next year.

"It will be meant for the helicopters already in service, but we are mostly looking at the fact that new equipment is coming in, which requires more modern conditions," Colonel Antanas Matutis, commander of the Air Force, said at the opening ceremony. 

For his part, Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said the new infrastructure was also important incoming allies to strengthen the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states and implement the rotational air defense model.

"The development of the military infrastructure at the Air Base is of particular relevance for strengthening our country's security and deterrence. The development of military infrastructure here is one of the key long-term priorities not only for the Lithuanian Armed Forces, but also for NATO," Anusauskas said.

The new hangar is designed for the storage and maintenance of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, with the first two due to arrive in Lithuania in 2025 and two more in 2026.

Last year, two pilots and ten technicians were trained to operate and maintain this type of helicopter, and this year eight more pilots and the same number of technicians are planned to be trained.

Lithuania acquired the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in 2020 and the helicopters are currently being upgraded at a modification plant in Huntsville, Alabama.

The construction of the new hangar cost around 3.6 million euros. The Defense Ministry says there are plans to invest over 166 million euros into infrastructure development at the Air Base by 2028, of which around 50 million euros will be provided by NATO.

According to the minister, the Air Base may be adapted for combat air units in the future.

"I am convinced that Lithuanian aviation must expand. It all depends on resources. … In any case, Lithuanian aviation has to expand, it has to meet the requirements dictated by the legislation and the geopolitical situation," Anusauskas said. "We cannot be weak, we have to have good forces and additional capabilities."

Between 2023 and 2024, investments into the Air Base infrastructure will amount to around 66 million euros, of which around 60 percent will come from the NATO Security Investment Program.

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Poland's Pekao mulls setting up branch in Lithuania, c. banker confirms  

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – Gediminas Simkus, the central bank's governor, has confirmed a report by BNS that Pekao, one of Poland's largest banks, is considering opening a branch in Lithuania.  

"In the second half of December, Pekao Bank's management visited Lithuania, which I think is a very serious signal about their intentions," Simkus said in an interview with the 15min online news site.

"As the Baltic region, I think we are an attractive area for a new service player to come in. I am optimistic that we will see a new market entrant in Lithuania. There are very clear signals that this will happen. But again, when exactly also depends a lot on the institution strategizing its entry," the chairman of the Bank of Lithuania's board said.  

"Given that sometimes I see how these decisions that were supposed to be made are delayed, I'd say that I am optimistic and we will see this year," he added when asked whether the Polish bank could establish its presence in Lithuania this year.

BNS reported last November, citing four sources, that Pekao was considering setting up a branch in Lithuania and serving only business clients. 

The bank has not made its plans public, but has confirmed its intention to cooperate more actively with Lithuanian companies. 

The bank would have to obtain the central bank's permission to establish a branch in Lithuania. 

 

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Lithuanian military plan to develop reconnaissance drone capability within 3 yrs

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – The Lithuanian Armed Forces are planning to develop a reconnaissance drone capability within three years and are procuring combat unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as an integral part of anti-tank defense.

Procurement procedures for small and micro reconnaissance drones for military use are currently underway or will be launched shortly. 

These acquisitions are being made based on Lithuania's intelligence concept plan approved in 2017, military officials say, rejecting criticism of the lack of a strategy voiced by some experts and defense industry representatives at last week's meeting of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense (CNSD). 

"We will have a fully developed capability at brigade, battalion, up to division, company level. This should be implemented over the next three years," Colonel Rolandas Greibus, head of the Development Planning Board of the Defense Staff, told BNS.

Chief Planning Officer Major Sarunas Savukaitis says the procurement of small-type (15-150 kg) UAVs is currently in the final stage and the procurement of mini-type (2-15 kg) drones will be resumed soon.

Military units could purchase micro UAVs of up to 2 kg on their own. Additionally, a significant centralized procurement of these drones will be announced this year.

According to Savukaitis, Germany and the US can offer mini-type drones, and US and Latvia can offer small-type ones.  

"We have choices," he said.

Greibus noted that the Armed Forces are buying not only the equipment but also training and logistics packages.

According to the head of the Development Planning Board, this makes the unmanned aircraft systems procured by the Armed Forces more expensive than many of the drones used in the war in Ukraine.

The colonel also pointed out that personnel training takes time, as operating drones requires training not just for one or two people but for an entire unit.

"You get the equipment and the weapons, and it can take up to three years to form a fully prepared unit," he said. 

Greibus said combat drones would be used in conjunction with anti-tank capabilities.

"When we were planning, we saw combat drones as a complementary combat tool. Currently, with Boxer (infantry fighting vehicles), we have Spike missiles; their flight and control is exactly the same as that of combat drones, that is, the operator sits, sees on the screen where the missile is heading, and manually aims," the colonel said. 

"Therefore, we see the combat use of these (UAV) systems in conjunction with anti-tank units, (...) as an integral part of the anti-tank capability," he added. 

In December 2022, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry signed a contract for the acquisition of Switchblade 600 combat drones from the US, with the first batch expected to be delivered this year. The total value of the contract is around 45 million euros.

The military officials said they highly appreciate the unmanned systems being developed by the paramilitary Lithuanian Riflemen's Union.

They said the drones could be useful for the Armed Forces in the future, but added that uncertified equipment cannot be procured or used by the military.

Greibus noted that different rules and safety requirements apply during wartime and that they cannot be applied during peacetime.

Lithuania started paying more attention to drones amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, where both sides are using UAVs for various tasks ranging from reconnaissance to destroying enemy targets.

Laurynas Kasciunas, the CNSD chairman, told reporters last Friday that the committee would propose a greater role for UAVs in the National Defense Development Program currently under discussion in the parliament.

 

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, January 10, 2024

VILNIUS, Jan 09, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Wednesday, January 10, 2024.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to give an interview to the Ziniu Radijas radio station at 8 a.m.; to meet with Armenia's ambassador Ara Margarian at noon. 

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to chair the Cabinet's meeting at 1 p.m. 

SOCIAL PROTECTION AND LABOR MINISTER Monika Navickiene to attend an informal meeting of the EU's Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) in Belgium.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to meet with EU member countries' ambassadors to Lithuania.

COURTS 

The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania to issue, at 1 p.m., its ruling on Belarusian activist Olga Karach's asylum appeal.

 

 

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