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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, November 27, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Seven irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  2. Lithuanians have no clear opinion on Israel-Hamas conflict, poll finds 
  3. Lithuania reports 73 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  4. Teacher union in Lithuania suspends strike until budget adoption
  5. Klaipeda man accused of laundering EUR 91 mln from sale of military equipment
  6. Three more corruption cases recorded at Lithuania's SFVS - BNS INTERVIEW
  7. Belarus' KGB activity at 'historical high' now – Lithuania's intelligence chief
  8. Lithuania energmin to sign pact on energy facilities' cyber security during US visit
  9. Lithuania to provide EUR 2 mln in aid for exporting grain from Ukraine
  10. Lithuanian SocDems call on govt to consider issuing defense bonds
  11. Allied support for Lithuanian division will depend on bilateral discussions – NATO admiral - BNS INTERVIEW
  12. Lithuanian president continues to lead popularity rating – poll
  13. NATO jets in Baltics scrambled twice over Russian aircraft last week
  14. EU Commissioner Sinkevicius leads list of Lithuanian democrats' EP candidates
  15. SocDems top party popularity rating in Lithuania
  16. Fire and rescue service remains most trusted institution in Lithuania – poll
  17. Growing inflow of migrant workers poses threat for Lithuania's security – minister
  18. Many Lithuanian cos could make dual-purpose products – industry rep
  19. Gas prices for Lithuanian households may fall 4-7 cents from January – regulator 
  20. Growing inflow of migrant workers poses threat for Lithuania's security – minister (expands)
  21. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 28, 2023

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

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away seven migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Monday morning.

No attempts to cross the border illegally were recorded at the Latvian border on Sunday, and no irregular migrants were registered by Polish officials on Saturday.

A total of 2,505 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year.

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

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

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

 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vilnius newsroom


Lithuanians have no clear opinion on Israel-Hamas conflict, poll finds 

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – A considerable portion of Lithuanians back Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip, but a significant number either do not support the Jewish state or have no opinion on the issue, a public opinion poll carried out by Vilmorus for BNS has found.  

The sociological survey was conducted about a month after the Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. The group has since killed at least 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taken nearly half a hundred hostages.

In response, the Jewish state launched a campaign of airstrikes in Gaza and is carrying out ground operations in the Strip.

According to the poll, 38.1 percent of respondents support Israel's actions in Gaza. A third (30.4 percent) disapprove of the Jewish state's actions, and a similar percentage (31.5 percent) either do not know or have no opinion.

Support higher among men, younger people undecided

The survey indicates that 46.9 percent of men and 30.4 percent of women support the Israeli actions against Hamas. The percentage of those with no opinion on the matter are higher among women (35.8 percent) than among men (26.6 percent). 

When segmented by specific social groups, a significant portion of students (45.5 percent) and those aged under 29 years (43 percent) either have no opinion or are unaware of Israel's actions. Conversely, respondents supporting Israel's actions include business people and civil servants earning more than 700 euros, and those with incomplete secondary education or higher education.

The survey also showed that the Jewish state's actions are more likely to be supported by people living in areas other than Lithuania's major cities and towns. The strongest disapproval comes from residents of Kaunas, Klaipeda, Siauliai and Panevezys.

Nearly an equal number of Vilnius residents either support Israel or have no opinion on the matter.

Support for Israel's actions against Hamas is highest among those who vote for the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (58.8 percent), the Democratic Union "For Lithuania, the Liberal Movement, and the Freedom Party.

Voters of the Party of Regions and the People and Justice Union tend to disapprove of the Jewish state's actions.

Results not surprising, reflect society's divisions 

Ieva Petronyte-Urbonaviciene, a political scientist at Vilnius University's Institute of International Relations and Political Science, said the results of the poll are not very surprising and they indicate that the Lithuanian public tends to "moderately support Israel's actions."

"However, the division is quite substantial, and the support is not overwhelming or dominant in society," she told BNS.

According to Egdunas Racius, a professor at Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), the results indicate that Lithuanian residents do not feel the need to retaliate with weapons.

"A worrying thing is that there are so few people who have the moral, human backbone to say, 'Wait, we are talking about tens of thousands of deaths, and that number is rising,'" he told BNS.

In Racius' opinion, the fact that a third of the population has no opinion on the issue shows the provincialism of Lithuania.

The exact results of the survey are as follows: 

 The Vilmorus poll asked respondents the following question: "Do you approve or disapprove of Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip in response to the Hamas attack on October 7?"

Answers:

1. Strongly approve – 13.2 percent;

2. Partially approve - 24.9 percent;

3. Partially disapprove - 14.3 percent;

4. Strongly disapprove - 16.1 percent;

5. Do not know/no opinion - 31.5 percent.

Vilmorus polled 1,000 people in 25 cities and towns and 40 villages through in-person and phone interviews between November 9 and 19. The results of the poll have an error margin of up to 3.1 percent.

 

By Greta Zulonaitė

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Lithuania reports 73 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 73 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Monday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 344.5 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 36.6 percent.

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

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

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

 

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Teacher union in Lithuania suspends strike until budget adoption

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - The Lithuanian Education Employee's Trade Union, led by Andrius Navickas, has on Monday suspended its strike it started last week until the adoption of the state budget on December 5.

"This is exactly the same break as we had after the first wave. Now, the teachers are back in schools, back in classes. We will use that break for discussions with teachers, both on how to organize and invite teachers to take part in the next wave, and also for meetings with MPs, and then we will strike again on December 5," Navickas told BNS on Monday.

Navickas says there's no point in striking continuously until December 5 as both children and their parents would suffer.

Teachers plan to resume their industrial action on December 5 when the Seimas is due to approve next year's budget.

Suspended in mid-October, teachers' strike was resumed last Wednesday. On the same day, teachers held a rally outside the Seimas.

According to the National Education Agency, more than 2,000 education workers took part in the strike last week. It was resumed renewed after the union and the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports failed to agree on teachers' pay, workload structure and class size reduction.

The government is proposing in next year's budget to increase teachers' salaries in two stages: by 10 percent from January, and by another 10 percent from September, to bring the average teacher's salary up to 130 percent of the national average salary.

An additional 387 million euros is allocated in next year's budget for the implementation of the education agreement.

The Lithuanian Education Employee's Trade Union is not happy with this proposal as is asking for two 15-percent pay rises. The Education Ministry, however, says it has no financial capacity to offer a higher pay increase.

By Greta Zulonaitė

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Klaipeda man accused of laundering EUR 91 mln from sale of military equipment

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - A Klaipeda businessman has been accused of laundering 91 million euros received from the sale of military and dual-purpose goods, Lithuania's prosecution service said on Monday.

As an authorized person and later the sole shareholder of a company registered in the Republic of Panama and operating in Klaipeda, the man brokered the sale of military equipment and dual-use goods to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea without having a license to do so.

According to the investigation, the businessman later took steps to launder the allegedly criminally obtained funds.

"The gathered evidence suggests that the accused man may have laundered more than 91 million euros between 2008 and 2012 through various financial transactions," the report says.

The investigation also revealed that some of the money obtained from the foreign company may have been used for the economic and commercial activities of the Klaipeda man's company. It is estimated that almost 17 million euros may have been laundered in less than two years through the use of the defendant's company registered in Klaipeda.

The businessman and its company are accused of money laundering, and the businessman is also accused of unlawful intermediation in the transfer of military equipment.

The businessman and his company have had assets worth more than 9.3 million euros frozen as part of this investigation.

This criminal case will be heard by the Klaipeda Regional Court.

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Three more corruption cases recorded at Lithuania's SFVS - BNS INTERVIEW

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - Three more corruption cases have been recorded at the Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service this year, Audrone Mikalauskiene, the SFVS's new head who has been in charge for a month, says, adding that pre-trial investigations are currently underway.

"After the last case, which should have been a huge lesson for our community, unfortunately it didn't happen. A year has passed since the arrest of the former manager and we have three more cases this year," Mikalauskiene, who assumed her new position on October 27, aid in an interview with BNS.

In her words, the corruption cases had been recorded at the service's territorial units where one employee has already been dismissed and two others have been suspended. The Special Investigation Service is currently carrying out the pre-trial investigations. 

Mikalauskiene was appointed to head the SFVS for a five-year term after the government sacked corruption suspect its previous manager Mantas Staskevicius in November 2022.

The new head of the SFVS vows to restore the institution's reputation and remove the shadow of corruption. She hopes that staff attitudes will change and that resistance to restructuring will diminish and corruption will disappear.

By Erika Alonderytė-Kazlauskė

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Belarus' KGB activity at 'historical high' now – Lithuania's intelligence chief

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – The Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD) is currently observing an unprecedented level of activity from Belarus' KGB, Darius Jauniskis, the intelligence agency's director, has said.   

"We see intensified activity specifically from the Belarusian KGB, which is actually at a historical high; it has never been this intense before," he told LRT Radio on Sunday. 

Some members of the sizable Belarusian diaspora in Lithuania raise certain concerns for the intelligence body, according to Jauniskis.

"Let's not forget that we have a very large Belarusian diaspora here, individuals come here and, in fact, raise certain counter-intelligence issues," he said.  

The spreading of Russian propaganda is also intensifying in Lithuania, the director said.  

"I think Russia had slowed down this activity, probably when it started the war in Ukraine, because they expected a very easy victory and got stuck there, but now we feel a certain intensification," he said.

Jauniskis said he had no information indicating that unfriendly countries' services are attempting to recruit public officials, civil servant or politicians. 

"I have no such intelligence at the moment," he said. "And if there are attempts, I have no doubt that that we will track this down and see this," he said. 

The SSD director said that the recent intensification of hoax bomb threats targeting schools and other places in Lithuania is part of information attacks by hostile forces.  

"As to all these threats to blow up schools or certain institutions, or a hydro power plant and airports, we must understand that we are already caught up in this whirlpool," he said. 

"These are information operations designed to create confusion in our minds, turn us against each other, and make us live in a sense of uncertainty all the time and think that things are very bad. No doubt, we see and state this," he said. 

In October, bomb threats targeting schools and other organizations, including the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, intensified and continued in Lithuania, but none of them were turned out to be real.

 

By Valdas Pryšmantas

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Lithuania energmin to sign pact on energy facilities' cyber security during US visit

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys is in the United States this week where he will sign an agreement with the Idaho National Laboratory, one of the national laboratories of the United States Department of Energy, on the participation in a joint project to strengthen the cyber security of the energy sector, the Energy Ministry told BNS on Monday.

In addition, Kreivys will meet with US Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk to discuss cooperation, Lithuania's preparations for the synchronization of the Baltic electricity grids with Western Europe, regional energy security, and support for Ukraine's energy sector.

Kreivys will also talk about preparation in Lithuania to switch to 100 percent renewable energy and to use its resources to cover all consumption needs.

During the visit, the Lithuanian energy minister is also scheduled to meet with representatives of US energy companies developing the latest nuclear energy technology and small nuclear reactors.

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Lithuania to provide EUR 2 mln in aid for exporting grain from Ukraine

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Lithuania this year will contribute 2 million euros for the global humanitarian initiative Grain from Ukraine, the government's press service has said. 

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said during her visit to Kyiv on Saturday that the initiative is important because of Russia's blockade of grain shipment routes in the Black Sea.

"Russia is trying to turn food into a weapon again, but this time such intentions will not succeed, among other reasons, thanks to the Grains from Ukraine initiative," she said after the initiative's summit in the Ukrainian capital.

Last year, Lithuania also contributed 2 million euros to the humanitarian food program initiated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

After Russia invaded Ukraine and started blockading its Black Sea ports last year, Kyiv asked for international assistance in shipping grain out of the country. Some of it was exported via the Lithuanian seaport of Klaipeda.

 

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Lithuanian SocDems call on govt to consider issuing defense bonds

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - The opposition Lithuanian Social Democratic Party's political group in the Seimas has proposed to the country's government to consider creating a new source of revenue, defense bonds.

"We will only be taken seriously in the eyes of our strategic NATO partners if we propose real solutions to increase the clearly insufficient defense budget," LSDP leader Vilija Blinkeviciute said.

For her part, Dovile Sakaliene, a Social Democrat member of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense, says this would be a sustainable source of funds as defense bonds would allow the state to borrow its citizens, meaning that the funds raised would remain within the country. 

"It would not be a burden on lower-income earners, like the consumption tax currently proposed by some politicians," she said.

Eugenijus Gentvilas, the elder of the Liberal Movement political group in the Seimas, which is part of the ruling coalition, earlier also suggested borrowing from the Lithuanian population for defense needs.

In October, when lawmakers started deliberating next yea's state budget, Laurynas Kasciunas, chair of the CNSD, proposed starting discussions on sustainable national defense funding and suggested introducing a defense tax. 

Next year, Lithuania plans to allocate a total of 2.06 billion euros on national defense. According to the Defense Ministry, the total defense budget in 2024 is expected to reach 2.71 percent of GDP. 2.52 percent will come from the budget, and the rest will be received from the existing temporary bank solidarity levy.

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Allied support for Lithuanian division will depend on bilateral discussions – NATO admiral - BNS INTERVIEW

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - NATO does not require the creation of a division in Lithuania, Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee says, adding that allied support for such a military unit will depend on bilateral discussions.

Lithuania plans to establish the unit by 2030, given the country's current defense funding. However, it would not be fully manned another five years, which means that Lithuania would have to ask for allied support during this period and will need long-range artillery, rocket artillery, reconnaissance or aviation units.

"That is a discussion that other nations can have with Lithuania. There is not a hard requirement from NATO for a division in Lithuania, but it is good to have a division in Lithuania, of course," the admiral said in an interview with BNS last week. "So everyone will look at this, and if nations can and are able to help Lithuania with that, they can decide so and at the same time, Lithuania has to build those capabilities over the coming years. And so the fact that it is not there now shouldn't be treated as a negative thing. It is a normal thing that if you build such a large unit, like a division, it will take time."

The Lithuanian foreign minister has recently said that Russia is mobilizing resources for a war with NATO. Nonetheless, German experts predict that after the end of the intense fighting in Ukraine, it will take the Moscow regime 6 to10 years to rebuild its armed forces. Is the Alliance ready for war?

The alliance is always ready. And that is our duty because we are a defensive alliance. (...) NATO started to work on a new military strategy in 2018. What was produced saw the light of day in 2019. It was a threat-based military strategy and the threat is both Russia and terror groups. So that was a big change in the thinking because for a long, long time, almost 20 years, NATO saw Russia as a partner. But once Russia’s aggressive behavior started, we started developing new military strategies. One is for the defense of the Euro-Atlantic area, and the other is to make sure we are also ready for future threats.

All this work on collective defense meant that when the Russians invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022, NATO was ready and we immediately had 120 aircraft airborne within hours and we had more and more ships at sea and 40,000 troops under the command of NATO within less than two weeks. So that was how NATO was able to respond, and that was not even a situation where we were attacked, the Alliance itself.

If you want peace, you need to prepare for war and strengthen your deterrence. That is the best way to prevent war from ever happening. We are not at war with Russia and I think the Russians don't want a war with NATO because I'm convinced they know that they will lose that.

But even German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has admitted that the European Union will not be able to produce one million artillery shells for Ukraine. Do you see any risks that the European military industry is adapting too slowly to the changed geopolitical environment?

For me, supporting Ukraine and strengthening our own defenses are two different things. I fully agree with the German minister that we need to ramp up production to support Ukraine. Because we see that the Russian economy is changing to a wartime economy. And that means that the Russian economy is serving the war efforts as the main effort, and that is not the case in Europe. It is a little bit more the case in the US where they have more instruments to basically order the industry to give preference to defense in terms of production. So yes, the European industry needs to ramp up faster. But in most liberal economies that takes longer because we deal with private investors, with all sorts of regulations, and therefore I am talking about this subject a lot because we need this, we need this faster and we need it in larger numbers.

Doesn't that imply that Europe is too dependent on the US and its military capabilities in that case?  

NATO’s defense and deterrence is a combined effort of all the allies. The United States Armed Forces are the biggest and therefore they play a very important role.  However, it is important that the Canadian and European Armed Forces start playing a bigger role in providing capabilities. The plans that have been approved in Vilnius during the summit in July are actually aiming at a larger contribution from the European and Canadian Armed Forces in order to rebalance that a little bit.

Speaking specifically of Lithuania. The agreement between Vilnius and Berlin makes Lithuania the only country in the eastern flank with a brigade size unit from a NATO ally. Lithuania, obviously, is pleased with this decision, but how doesn't that reduce your ability as a planner to deploy forces where they are most needed?

Not necessarily. The good thing about the German brigade in Lithuania is that with these regional plans, there is a better connection between the national defense plans and their regional NATO plants. So, as a result of that, the nations are focusing more on their own region. It doesn't mean they cannot be everywhere, but the nations in the region will first and foremost look at deploying their forces to neighboring countries or countries that are close by, and therefore this decision from the German and the Lithuanian governments is a logical one because it is building on this long-standing relationship since the start of eFP in 2016. 

But how do you feel about Lithuania being the only country in the eastern flank with this kind of brigade?

The decision in Madrid was to have 8 battle groups along the eastern flank with the minimum size of an enabled battalion. That was the decision that is being realized and the decision was always that those battle groups needed to be able to beef up to a brigade if it is necessary, based on intelligence. A number of nations already have seen exercises with a brigade coming to them, so you see that the mechanism works and the battle groups can be beefed up to a brigade if necessary.

The decision by Germany and Lithuania to permanently ramp up to a brigade does not go against NATO plans, it complements our plans. The decision is a clear show of solidarity between allies. It requires a lot of investments on both sides. But it sends a clear message that NATO is ready to defend every inch of allied territory. And that is exactly the goal of our regional plans: to make sure we combine forward defense with strategic flexibility in order to protect every inch in all domains.

Do you see any possibilities for other countries to beef up their battalions to a brigade in the nearest future?

That's up to nations and it's up to the lead nations. We see a deal between Latvia and Canada where more people from Canada come to Latvia for a reason that is also understandable because if you are in Canada with a lot of troops and material, it takes more time to get to Latvia. So they beef up their presence and as a result, there will be more troops in Latvia as well, like in Lithuania.

Lithuania plans to create a division in 2030. However, initially, for at least five years, Lithuania will not have the so-called enabler units of its own and is seeking to have them from NATO. Do you see any opportunities for this?

That is a discussion that other nations can have with Lithuania. There is not a hard requirement from NATO for a division in Lithuania, but it is good to have a division in Lithuania, of course. So everyone will look at this. If nations can and are able to help Lithuania with that, they can decide so and at the same time, Lithuania has to build those capabilities over the coming years. And so the fact that it is not there now shouldn't be treated as a negative thing. It is a normal thing that if you build such a large unit like a division, it will take time.

Lithuania is also looking for partners that could deploy air defense elements in the country on a rotational basis, replacing the air policing mission. Almost half a year has passed since defense ministers agreed on such a model, but no agreement has been signed. When could a breakthrough be expected?

All these things take time. This is about capabilities that nations do not necessarily immediately have, about making sure that nations can deploy to, in this case, Lithuania or any other Baltic nation. We're going to talk about this at the February meeting of defense ministers.

Thank you for your time.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuanian president continues to lead popularity rating – poll

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – People in Lithuania continue to have the most favorable opinion of the country's President Gitanas Nauseda, according to the latest poll by Vilmorus for the Lietuvos Rytas daily, published on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, who leads the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, saw its public approval rating plummet the most this month.

According to the poll, 64.6 percent of the respondents had a favorable opinion of Nauseda in November, while 16.4 percent had a negative one, compared to 64.2 and 16.5 percent respectively in October.

MEP Vilija Blinkeviciute, the leader of the opposition Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, is the second most popular politician in the country, with 51.9 percent of positive opinions and 23.2 percent of negative ones, almost unchanged from October – 50.8 and 22.9 percent.

"This is her highest personal assessment since such polls began," Vladas Gaidys, head of Vilmorus, told BNS.

Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas comes in third with 43.9 percent of favorable opinions and 25.7 percent of negative ones, from 43.9 and 23.3 percent respectively in October.

He's followed by Speaker of the Seimas Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, who leads the Liberal Movement, part of the ruling block, with 36 percent of favorable opinions and 37.6 percent of unfavorable ones (35.5 and 35.7 percent in October).

Ex-Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, the leader of the opposition Democrats "For Lithuania", comes next with 33.5 percent of positive opinions and 39.5 percent of negative ones, compared to 34.7 and 36 percent respectively in October.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Landsbergis' public approval rating has nosedived this month as 67.7 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him, compared to 61 percent in October. And 15.8 percent had a positive opinion of the politician, compared to 19 percent in October.

Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite, the leader of the Freedom Party, another member of the ruling coalition, has a public disapproval rating of 59.3 percent, and 14.6 percent have a positive opinion of her, compared to 59.8 percent and 13.2 percent respectively in October.

Meanwhile, 59.2 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte and 21.9 percent have a positive one, compared to 54.9 percent and 24.9 percent respectively in October.

Among the most unpopular politicians is MEP Waldemar Tomaszewski, the leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance as 58.3 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him and 6.1 percent have a positive one (56 and 6.1 percent in October).

Vilmorus polled 1,000 people on November 9-19 November.

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NATO jets in Baltics scrambled twice over Russian aircraft last week

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – NATO's fighter jets policing Baltic airspace were last week scrambled twice to identify and escort Russian aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea in violation of flight rules, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

On November 20, NATO's jets intercepted an IL-20 attack aircraft flying from mainland Russia to its Kaliningrad exclave.  

Another IL-20 was intercepted en route from Kaliningrad from mainland Russia on November 25. 

Neither of the Russian aircraft were using their onboard transponders or keeping radio contract with the Regional Traffic Control Center. They had not filed flight plans either. 

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

 

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EU Commissioner Sinkevicius leads list of Lithuanian democrats' EP candidates

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius has received the biggest level of support from the opposition Democrats (For Lithuania) as the party's chapters started nominating candidates for the upcoming European Parliament election.

The party chapter can nominate their candidates until January 7, and half of the party's chapters have already submitted their nominations, the party said on Monday.

Several names are most frequently mentioned among the contenders and they include Sinkevicius, the party's leader Saulius Skvernelis, MPs Lukas Savickas, Algirdas Butkevicius, Tominas Tominas and Olga Vebriene.

Lithuania will elect its 11 MEPs on June 9.

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SocDems top party popularity rating in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS - If the Seimas election were held on the upcoming Sunday, the opposition Lithuanian Social Democratic Party would get the highest number of votes, and the ruling Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats would get only half of what the Social Democrats would receive, according to the latest poll by Vilmorus for the Lietuvos Rytas daily, published on Saturday.

It shows that 20.3 percent vote for the Social Democrats, compared to 18 percent in October.

"This is the highest result for this party since the last election," Vladas Gaidys, head of Vilmorus, told BNS.

The HU-LCD comes in second with 8 percent, which is the lowest number since the 2020 elections. A month ago, 9.3 percent would have voted for the party.

The opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union would receive 7.7 percent, up from 7.3 percent in October), pushing the opposition Democrats "For Lithuania" into fourth place with 6.7 percent (7.5 percent).

The Liberal Movement, part of the ruling coalition, would get 5.7 percent (4.7 percent in October), followed by the opposition Labor Party with 2.8 percent (2.9 percent), the Freedom and Justice Party with 2.7 percent (2.1 percent), the People and Justice Union (centrists, nationalists) with 2.4 percent (7.7 percent), the Lithuanian Regions Party with 2.3 percent (2.4 percent), the Freedom Party, another member of the ruling coalition, with 1.9 percent (2.4 percent), the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance with 1.3 percent (1.6 percent).

1.4 percent of the respondents said they would vote for "another party", and, according to Gaidys, often mentioned the National Alliance when asked to name it.

10.9 percent said they would not vote at all and 25.9 percent were undecided, compared to 10.8 and 27.4 percent respectively a month ago.

Vilmorus polled 1,000 people on November 9-19 November.

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Fire and rescue service remains most trusted institution in Lithuania – poll

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – The fire and rescue service continues to enjoy the highest public trust among all institutions in Lithuania, according to the latest Vilmorus opinion poll published by Lietuvos Rytas on Saturday. 

It found that 88.9 percent of respondents trusted the fire and rescue service and 1.6 percent did not, compared to 91.9 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, a month ago.

"The level of trust in firefighters has been high for many years," Vilmorus CEO Vladas Gaidys told BNS.

Other highly trusted institutions in November were the police with 63.8 percent trust and 9.3 percent mistrust (64.2 percent and 8.6 percent in October), and the Armed Forces with 60.7 percent and 11 percent (63.9 percent and 9 percent), respectively.

Some 51.4 percent of those polled said they had confidence in Sodra and 12.2 percent said they did not trust the state social insurance fund (53.2 percent and 10.2 percent in November).

Among positively viewed services and institutions were border guards, trusted by 45.5 percent and mistrusted by 11.3 percent of respondents (46.7 percent and 8.3 percent).

Further down the list in terms of public trust were education with 43.7 percent and 11.9 percent (40.7 percent and 16.8 percent), the president's office with 42.7 percent and 18.3 percent (45.2 percent and 15.9 percent), and the Church with 42.5 percent and 20.3 percent (43.2 percent and 21.5 percent). 

Political parties were viewed positively by 5.9 percent of respondents, and negatively by 52.4 percent (6.1 percent and 53.3 percent in November).

Some 8.5 percent of those polled trusted the parliament and 57 percent did not (10.7 percent and 53.4 percent).

The government was trusted by 12.5 percent of respondents and mistrusted by 44.6 percent (17.5 percent and 41.6 percent).

Vilmorus polled 1,000 people in Lithuania between November 9 and 19. The results of the representative survey, commissioned by Lietuvos Rytas, have an error margin of up to 3.1 percent.

 

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Growing inflow of migrant workers poses threat for Lithuania's security – minister

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS –The growing inflow of foreigners coming to Lithuania for work is a threat to Lithuania's security, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says, adding that newcomers are being used as a cover by the intelligence services of hostile countries.

"The growing inflow is a threat because it is becoming obvious that it is more difficult to ensure control and integration processes. The State Security Department has also pointed out that a worrying trend has recently emerged where immigrants are becoming a cover for the intelligence services of hostile countries," the minister told a press conference on Monday.

Some 50,000 foreigners have come to work in Lithuania this yea, she said, adding that these are mainly citizens of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The number of foreigners coming from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan is also increasing. 

"This year, 16,000 decisions have been made to ban the entry of foreign citizens to Lithuania due to threats to national security," the interior minister said. For the same reason, she added, 411 Belarusian citizens have had their residence permits revoked and 562 have been refused temporary residence permits.

"This year, the State Border Guard Service has refused to allow 527 Russian citizens and 600 Belarusian citizens to enter Lithuania due to threats to national security. This shows that our prior decisions and restrictive measures are really bearing fruit," Bilotaite said.

MPs Laurynas Kasciunas and Paulius Saudargas have drafted amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, which would allow a foreigner who has lived in Lithuania for five years and wishes to extend their temporary residence permit to be issued such a document only if they present documents to prove their proficiency in the state Lithuanian language.

According to the lawmakers, the practice shows that people tend to renew their temporary residence permit for an indefinite period of time and are therefore not subject to the requirements to have sufficient command of the Lithuanian language and have basic knowledge of the Lithuanian Constitution when applying for a permanent residence permit. This, they argue, creates a risk of the formation of foreign diasporas.

The two lawmakers also propose increasing employers' responsibility when employing foreigners. The amendments seek to establish that a temporary residence permit issued on the basis of employment shall be revoked or a new one denied if the employer has had a period of non-insurability for more than 90 days in the previous 180 days for any of the foreigners employed.

In addition, the amendments would provide that a foreigner in Lithuania would be able to change their employer no earlier than six months after the date of obtaining a temporary residence permit.

Under the current regulations, employers commit to employing a foreigner for six months, but in practice, after a month or so, foreigners often asked the Migration Department to allow them to change employers.

Kasciunas and Saudargas are also proposing limiting the number of temporary residence permits issued to persons of Lithuanian origin or to foreigners entitled to restore Lithuanian citizenship. According to the bill, a temporary permit would be issued to them only once. After living in Lithuania for five years, they would have to learn the Lithuanian language, pass the exam on the basic knowledge of the Constitution and could obtain a permanent residence permit.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Many Lithuanian cos could make dual-purpose products – industry rep

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Many Lithuanian industrial enterprises could manufacture dual-purpose products, from explosives to weapons, Vidmantas Janulevicius, president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LCI), said on Monday. 

"Many industrial enterprises could also produce dual-purpose products. That is what we talked about today," Janulevicius said after the first meeting of the National Coordination Council for Total Defense at the Presidential Palace on Monday.

"In a few months, the LCI will submit to the Council lists of companies with specific products that we could produce, with or without additional funding," he added. 

According to the LCI president, Lithuanian businesses could produce a wide range of dual-purpose goods, from drones to explosives and weapons.

"Some metalworking companies could make weapons that could fully comply with NATO standards and needs," he noted. 

Janulevicius added that in preparation for manufacturing dual-use goods, legislative amendments would be need to loosen the regulation of production in emergencies. 

The LCI president listed food production, pharmaceuticals and energy as key industries in an emergency situation.

"Let's hope that there will be no such thing (war), but we should ensure that all the links operate so that the people of Lithuania and its soldiers have access to food," he said.

"We are also talking about the health industry and energy, which is a crucial infrastructure part because without energy, we can hardly carry out any other activities." 

The National Coordination Council for Total Defense is an advisory and expert group that brings together representatives from NGOs, businesses, industry, the parliament and the government to discuss the implementation of the objectives set out in the National Defense Plan. 

The president-chaired State Defense Council earlier this month approved the plan and envisaged mechanisms for its execution and cooperation, including the establishment of the National Coordination Council for Total Defense. 
 

 

By Milena Andrukaitytė

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Gas prices for Lithuanian households may fall 4-7 cents from January – regulator 

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS – Natural gas prices for households in Lithuania may go down by 4-7 euro cents per cubic meter from January, compared to the price they currently pay, Renatas Pocius, chairman of the National Energy Regulatory Council (NERC), said on Monday. 

"For those using natural gas in gas stoves, we have received a draft proposal from Ignitis indicating a decrease of 7 cents per cubic meter," Pocius told reporters, commenting on the    draft tariffs submitted by the electricity and gas supplier.

"For the second group of consumers heating their homes with natural gas, the reduction in tariffs is 4 cents per cubic meter," he said. 

Currently, consumers using the least amount of gas (mainly for cooking) pay 1.36 euros per cubic meter and those using gas to heat their homes pay 0.87 euros. The group consuming the most gas pays 0.83 euros.

The state currently subsidizes part of natural gas tariffs, but the scheme will be scrapped starting from January. 

The NERC is expected to approve the final natural gas tariffs and state-regulated public supply electricity tariffs on Thursday.

 

 

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Growing inflow of migrant workers poses threat for Lithuania's security – minister (expands)

Updated version: updates throughout

VILNIUS, Nov 27, BNS –The growing inflow of foreigners coming to Lithuania for work is a threat to Lithuania's security, Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says, adding that newcomers are being used as a cover by the intelligence services of hostile countries.

She and several other politicians on Monday presented new migration restrictions. 

"The growing inflow is a threat because it is becoming obvious that it is more difficult to ensure control and integration processes. The State Security Department has also pointed out that a worrying trend has recently emerged where immigrants are becoming a cover for the intelligence services of hostile countries," the minister told a press conference on Monday.

Some 50,000 foreigners have come to work in Lithuania this yea, she said, adding that these are mainly citizens of Belarus, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. The number of foreigners coming from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan is also increasing. 

"This year, 16,000 decisions have been made to ban the entry of foreign citizens to Lithuania due to threats to national security," the interior minister said. For the same reason, she added, 411 Belarusian citizens have had their residence permits revoked and 562 have been refused temporary residence permits.

"This year, the State Border Guard Service has refused to allow 527 Russian citizens and 600 Belarusian citizens to enter Lithuania due to threats to national security. This shows that our prior decisions and restrictive measures are really bearing fruit," Bilotaite said.

For the first time, the total number of foreigners living in Lithuania has exceeded 200,000, of which 62,000 are Belarusian citizens, she pointed out. This year alone, the number has increased by 14,000.

Visa centers to be closed

The existing legislation allows employers to abuse the system for the employment of foreigners, Bilotaite said.

"We see a lot of new companies being set up which do not employ foreigners, but, I would say, sublease them to other companies," the interior minister said.

She also announced that she would initiate an inter-institutional working group to develop a new migration policy strategy in line with the existing threats.

In addition, there are plans to close visa centers in some countries where foreigners can apply for national visas and temporary residence permits in Lithuania. There are currently 34 of them.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chair of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense, says that not only labor market needs, but also threats to national security and cultural proximity will be assessed when deciding which centers to close.

He's also proposing consulting the State Security Department before establishing visa centers abroad.

According to the interior minister, her ministry will propose introducing additional controls for the recruitment of foreigners, the activities of their employers and the presence of foreigners in Lithuania, and also imposing a tax on the use of mediation letters for companies that invite foreigners to work.

Learn the language

MPs Laurynas Kasciunas and Paulius Saudargas have drafted amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, which would allow a foreigner who has lived in Lithuania for five years and wishes to extend their temporary residence permit to be issued such a document only if they present documents to prove their proficiency in the state Lithuanian language.

According to the lawmakers, the practice shows that people tend to renew their temporary residence permit for an indefinite period of time and are therefore not subject to the requirements to have sufficient command of the Lithuanian language and have basic knowledge of the Lithuanian Constitution when applying for a permanent residence permit. This, they argue, creates a risk of the formation of foreign diasporas.

"There are attempts to bypass the integration mechanism. (...) There is a very clear path to prevent the formation of closed diasporas, which would create parallel societies, and for those communities to integrate into the life of the country through the knowledge of the state language," the CNSD chair explained. 

The MPs will also propose adopting an amendment stating that if a residence permit is suspended or revoked in Lithuania, the foreigner will have to leave the country immediately.

Saudargas says that if such a person appealed to courts, they would no longer be able to wait for their judgments in Lithuania.

The two lawmakers also propose increasing employers' responsibility when employing foreigners. The amendments seek to establish that a temporary residence permit issued on the basis of employment shall be revoked or a new one denied if the employer has had a period of non-insurability for more than 90 days in the previous 180 days for any of the foreigners employed.

In addition, the amendments would provide that a foreigner in Lithuania would be able to change their employer no earlier than six months after the date of obtaining a temporary residence permit.

Under the current regulations, employers commit to employing a foreigner for six months, but in practice, after a month or so, foreigners often asked the Migration Department to allow them to change employers.

Kasciunas and Saudargas are also proposing limiting the number of temporary residence permits issued to persons of Lithuanian origin or to foreigners entitled to restore Lithuanian citizenship. According to the bill, a temporary permit would be issued to them only once. After living in Lithuania for five years, they would have to learn the Lithuanian language, pass the exam on the basic knowledge of the Constitution and could obtain a permanent residence permit.

Restrictions for Belarusians

Kasciunas also confirmed plans to get back to the idea of tightening restrictions for Belarusian citizens.

"We are getting back to restrictions for Belarusians. Next week, we will meet with the minister and discuss specific wordings, possible extension of the restrictions for Belarusian citizens," he told journalists.

Bilotaite says her ministry has never given up its position that the Belarusians should be subject to the same restrictions that the Russians are. Now, the proposal, initially rejected by the Lithuanian parliament, can be considered again because the context had changed. 

"We have consistently spoken, as a ministry, on these measures and we have not changed our position, and these discussions continue," the minister said. "Especially after the State Security Department made its arguments public, identified real threats, I think we need to get back to this debate and to talk to MPs because there is a new context and new circumstances that need to be assessed," she added.

Lithuania now has a law in place on restrictive measures for Russian and Belarusian citizens, but Russian citizens are subject to more restrictions that Belarusian nationals. Both Russians and Belarusians face restrictions on obtaining Lithuanian visas and electronic resident status, but Russian citizens face additional difficulties in entering Lithuania, purchasing real estate and having their applications for residence temporarily rejected.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda maintained that Belarusian citizens should be subject to the same sanctions as Russian nationals, but the Seimas overrode his veto on the grounds that Belarusian citizens should be subject to a more relaxed regime. 

Secondary migration on the rise

Speaking on illegal migration, Bilotaite said it had been taken under control but he also stressed the importance of staying vigilant.

More than 500 asylum applications have been received this year, half of them from Belarusian citizens, she said.

"We see that secondary migration is also on the rise. This year, more than 1,000 migrants from the Latvian side have been detained," the minister said.

This year, Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of 2,505 irregular migrants from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated locations.

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

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

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 28, 2023

VILNIUS, Nov 28, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Tuesday, November 28, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to welcome participants of the Ukraine Green Recovery Conference at 11 a.m.; to light up the Christmas tree at the Presidential Palace with the First Lady at 3 p.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to attend a business conference at 9 a.m.; to take part in a discussion with young people at the European Commission Representation in Lithuania at 1 p.m.

SOCIAL SECURITY AND LABOR MINISTER Monika Navickiene to attend an EPSCO meeting in Brussels.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to attend the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum.

INTERIOR MINISTER Agne Bilotaite to attend the 91st Interpol General Assembly in Vienna.

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Nov 29 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, November 24, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Lithuania's MG Grupe pays EUR 1.1 mln fine in political corruption case
  2. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, November 24, 2023
  3. Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus
  4. Lithuanian formin, parlt speaker to meet Baltic counterparts in Tallinn
  5. Lithuanian defense chief, NATO rep to visit units preparing for parade
  6. Nearly 2,000 consumers in Lithuania still without power due to winds, snowfall 
  7. Lithuania reports 817 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death
  8. 2nd bank solidarity levy installment to exceed EUR 100 mln – c.bank
  9. Germany, Baltics to collaborate on innovation
  10. Germany, Baltics to collaborate on innovation (expands)
  11. Lithuanian PM, in Kyiv, pays tribute to Ukrainians killed in war with Russia
  12. Formin calls on Lithuania to wake up from 'peacetime stagnation'
  13. Lithuanian president, NATO general discuss implementation of regional defense plans
  14. Lithuanian MP Gapsys appeals sentence in political corruption case
  15. Construction of most modern car park near Via Baltica begins in Lithuania
  16. Ukraine's victory is existential issue for the Baltics – Landsbergis in Tallinn
  17. Lithuania made right decisions in responding to threats – NATO corps commander
  18. Minister asks president to strip Liepa of Lithuanian citizenship
  19. Convicts in MG Grupe corruption case in Lithuania transferred to Kaunas prison
  20. Lithuanian PM meets with Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv, vows energy sector support

Lithuania's MG Grupe pays EUR 1.1 mln fine in political corruption case

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – MG Grupe has paid a fine of 1.1 million euros imposed by the Court of Appeal in a high-profile political corruption case centering around the business group. 

"Yesterday we received a letter from the lawyer and a bank statement on the payment of the fine," Lina Nemeikaite, spokeswoman for Vilnius Regional Court, told BNS.

MG Grupe, one of Lithuania's biggest manufacturing, trading, real estate and media groups, was fined for bribery and influence peddling. The court's verdict became final on Wednesday. 

The Court of Appeal stated in its judgment that the evidence in the case allows a reasonable conclusion that MG Grupe (formerly MG Baltic) sought favorable decisions in legislation or in other areas significant to it "not only through legal means, but also by deliberately using the influence of its board member Raimondas Kurlianskis in the media (and) his connections in various groups of society, including politics, as well as its financial capacity as a large business operating in Lithuania". 

According to the court, the criminal acts caused significant damage to the Lithuanian state and its political system.

 

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, November 24, 2023

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Thursday, November 24, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with Lieutenant General Jürgen-Joachim von Sandrart , commander of NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast at 10 a.m.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to attend a meting of the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly and the speakers of the national parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in Tallinn at 9 a.m.

CULTURE MINISTER Simonas Kairys to attend a meeting of EU culture ministers in Brussels,

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to pay a working visit to Tallinn to attend a meeting of the Baltic Council of Ministers.

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Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus

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

Latvia reported 10 attempts at illegal border crossings on Thursday, and 28 irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Wednesday, according to the latest available information.

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

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

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

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

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Lithuanian formin, parlt speaker to meet Baltic counterparts in Tallinn

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the parliament, are meeting with their Baltic counterparts in Tallinn on Friday to discuss regional security.

Landsbergis and Cmilyte-Nielsen are in the Estonian capital for the 29th meeting of the Baltic Council.

Landsbergis will present the priorities of the Lithuanian presidency of the Baltic Council for the coming year, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry has said.

Cmilyte-Nielsen will also take part in the 42nd Baltic Assembly events.

"‘Russia's aggression against Ukraine and the emerging threat particularly demand attention to the security situation in the Baltic region," the speaker said in a press release. 

"In this critical environment, it is crucial for the Baltic states to maintain unity and further strengthen their integration with each other in order to get rid of their dependence on Russian influence and solidify their voice within the European Union and NATO," she said.  

The Lithuanian delegation in Tallinn also includes Andrius Mazuronis, deputy speaker of the Seimas, and MPs Andrius Kupcinskas, Orinta Leipute, Vytautas Juozapaitis, Ligita Girskiene, Kestutis Masiulis, Audrius Petrosius, Linas Slusnys, Romualdas Vaitkus, Valdemaras Valkiunas, Juozas Varzgalys and Antanas Vinkus.

The Baltic Assembly is a platform for cooperation among the parliaments of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia established on November 8, 1991.  

The Baltic Council, a cooperation format between the Baltic Assembly and the Baltic Council of Ministers, the coordinating body for cooperation among the governments of the three countries.  

 

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Lithuanian defense chief, NATO rep to visit units preparing for parade

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys and Juergen-Joachim von Sandrart, commander of NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast, will inspect the units preparing for Saturday's parade marking the Lithuanian Armed Forces Day.

Von Sandrart has come to Vilnius to congratulate the Lithuanian Armed Forces on their 105th anniversary of restoration and to participate in the parade of Lithuanian and allied military personnel and equipment, the Lithuanian Armed Forces have said. 

The lineup of military equipment participating in the parade, including the Lithuanian Armed Forces' Vilkas infantry fighting vehicles and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers, the US Army's Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs and Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and the Bundeswehr's Leopard tanks, and Puma and Marder IFVs, can been seen in the capital's Upes Street starting from Tuesday, according to the military.  

The parade will take place on Konstitucijos Avenue. 

 

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Nearly 2,000 consumers in Lithuania still without power due to winds, snowfall 

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Around 2,000 consumers in Lithuania are still without electricity on Friday morning following Thursday's heavy snowfall and winds that knocked down trees and broke branches, and cut power lines, Energijos Skirstymo Operatorius (ESO) told BNS. 

Rasa Juodkiene, the power distribution company's spokeswoman, said that the most affected are consumers in the Klaipeda and Siauliai regions.

"The situation is already stabilizing. Less than 2,000 consumers are without electricity," she said.

 

By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė

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Lithuania reports 817 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 817 new coronavirus infections and one death from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Friday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 329.7 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 36.1 percent.

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

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

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

 

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2nd bank solidarity levy installment to exceed EUR 100 mln – c.bank

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuania's commercial banks will soon transfer the second installment of the new solidarity levy for the third quarter of this year, with the central Bank of Lithuania estimating it to exceed 100 million euros.

The first installment of 56 million euros for the second quarter was paid by banks in late August., and the second installment is due by November 30.

The central bank says the total levy 2023 could be around 250 million euros, and the money will be used for military mobility and dual-use transport infrastructure.

The levy is calculated on net interest income that exceeds the average of the last four years by more than 50 percent. The levy was introduced as the country's banks are expected to make three times as much profit this year as they did last year – more than 1 billion euros, which is seen as a windfall as they benefit from the European Central Bank's interest rate hikes.

The banking sector's fist-half profits amounted to 515 million euros, up by 2.5 times more than last year.

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Germany, Baltics to collaborate on innovation

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS - Germany will collaborate with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the field of innovation through the new Innovation Club, an initiative launched by German Minister for Digitaland Transport Volker Wissing. 

"We have signed an agreement, the first declaration of this Innovation Club and together with representatives from the business society, from the civil society, we want to discuss the content of this and have specific recommendations," Wissing told a press conference on Friday after signing the declaration.

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Germany, Baltics to collaborate on innovation (expands)

New paras 3-9

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS - Germany will collaborate with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the field of innovation through the new Innovation Club, an initiative launched by German Minister for Digitaland Transport Volker Wissing. 

"We have signed an agreement, the first declaration of this Innovation Club and together with representatives from the business society, from the civil society, we want to discuss the content of this and have specific recommendations," Wissing told a press conference on Friday after signing the declaration. "We want to be in position where we can say "This is what we expect from the new (European – BNS) Commission".

Lithuanian Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite says cooperation with Germany is crucial for the Baltic states to compete with China and other innovation giants, which set lower standards for workers' welfare and health.

"To compete with that, it is not like we have to go to that level. We have to be even more open, even more proactive and take a more open approach. Regarding the infrastructure, the national security some of providers of services that perhaps draw some concern for liberal democracies and obviously we have to take measures," she told the press conference.

Latvia's Minister for the Environmental Protection and Regional Development Inga Berzina says the agreement is the start of a long-term growth of innovation in the Baltic States.

"Joint efforts and collaboration are key, we can see the fruits of it today. (...) To further grow the innovation and digitalization sector, this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. A lot of challenges are ahead of us," she said.

"It is not just a nice club that happened yesterday for the first time physically, but it is the beginning of a bigger movement," Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology Tiit Riisalo added.

By Goda Vileikytė

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuanian PM, in Kyiv, pays tribute to Ukrainians killed in war with Russia

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte in Kyiv on Friday paid tribute to those who lost their lives defending Ukraine against Russia.  

"At my first stop in Kyiv today, I paid respects to men and women who sacrificed their lives defending the most fundamental rights of a nation: to exist and to live in freedom," Simonyte posted on the X social platform. 

"They gave their lives to also defend all of us. The only way to achieve lasting and just peace is by helping Ukraine win as soon as possible, regain its full territorial integrity, serve international justice, and rebuild stronger," she added. 

The prime minister's visit to Kyiv is scheduled for Friday and Saturday. She said earlier that she was planning to meet with Ukrainian leaders and attend an event of the Ukrainian Grain initiative.

In Kyiv, Simonyte is also to meet with the community of the Center for Baltic Studies at Taras Shevchenko National University and attend a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor.

 

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Formin calls on Lithuania to wake up from 'peacetime stagnation'

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS - The existing support provided to Ukraine may not be enough to win against Russia, and the latter could rebuild its forces for a new offensive within a few years, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, leader of the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, warns.

In this context, he said, Lithuania must wake up from its "pleasant peacetime stagnation" and take urgent steps to boost its defense.

Moscow awaits negotiations

"We need to speak frankly. What has been provided to Ukraine may not be enough to win the war. Yes, escalation towards the West may be avoided in the short term, but it will simply not be enough for Ukraine to regain the occupied territories," he said in an article published on news websites on Friday.

"There is not the slightest doubt today that Moscow hopes, perhaps even more firmly than a year ago, that the day will come when Ukraine will have to negotiate. Even if they do so, they would do that not by choice, but only because of too little Western support. And yes, it will be a victory for Putin. And yes, that will be the day we start counting down to the next war. Russia's war against another neighbor," Landsbergis writes.

As crises have spread more widely around the world, he said, it has become increasingly difficult for Western powers to maintain even the attention they have paid to Ukraine since the start of the war in February 2022. As another threat, the minister pointed to the US's increasingly isolationist stance, which could prevail.

"We already hear talk of a potential change in NATO, or at least in the US role within it. All of this should at least promote a discussion on whether we are doing enough. Are we preparing for all scenarios?" Landsbergis writes.

Today, he argues, it is necessary to prepare for the worst-case scenarios and to prepare for "a new qualitative turning point in Lithuania's national security strategy".

"We can no longer remain silent. For Lithuania to move out of the pleasant peacetime stagnation, we all need to move together," the Lithuanian foreign minister stressed.

US, Germany as security pillars

In his article, Landsbergis outlined ten points he believes Lithuania's security strategy should be based in and they should be given the most attention right now.

In his words, the US has been and must remain the main pillar of NATO and Lithuania's security, while Germany is becoming the European strategic pillar of Lithuania's security.

"Minister (Boris) Pistorius' promise to deploy a heavy brigade in Lithuania is a historic one. The minister's words must be engraved on the wall of the Town Hall in Vilnius," Landsbergis said.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has promised to deploy a brigade of almost 5,000 troops with weaponry in Lithuania within the next few years. A concrete deployment plan is to be signed in December.

Landsbergis also stressed that it was time to complete strategic connectivity projects and significantly strengthen military cooperation with Poland, to strengthen regional partnerships with the Nordic and Baltic countries, and to learn from Ukraine on a daily basis, not only from a distance, but also from being there.

Calls for 4 percent defense spending

Lithuania's top diplomat also believes it is necessary to introduce universal conscription in Lithuania, for the country to build up significant capabilities in the coming years, and to put itself "at the front, not at the back of the line" in terms of weaponry acquisition, pointing in particular to the advantage provided by drones and electronic warfare.

"All of this raises the fundamental question of how much funding is needed for strategic change. (...) As we look at the new defense needs, we must be prepared to fund them accordingly, and we must not be afraid to talk about allocating not just three, but also four percent of GDP for defense," Landsbergis said, adding that it is necessary to agree on how this will be financed.

The Lithuanian government plans to spend 2.71 percent of GDP on national defense next year. Of this, 2.52 percent will comes from the regular budget appropriations and the rest will come from the existing temporary banking solidarity levy that will be used to fund only the infrastructure to host allies.

Some experts say that Lithuania should spend at least 3 percent of GDP on defense, while President Gitanas Nauseda says that next year's budget should allow for borrowing up to this level.

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Lithuanian president, NATO general discuss implementation of regional defense plans

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda met with Commander of NATO Multinational Corps Northeast, Lieutenant General Jurgen-Joachim von Sandrart in Vilnius on Friday and discussed the implementation of NATO's regional defense plans agreed at the Vilnius NATO summit, the presidential press service said.

They also discussed the development of tactical plans and the assignment of troops to them.

The agreement reached at the NATO summit in Vilnius on the strengthening of NATO's eastern flank, the rotational air defense model and the regional defense plans is of great importance for strengthening Lithuania and the whole region's defense capability, Nauseda said.

In his words, Lithuania is interested in the fastest and most effective possible adaptation and combat readiness of the regional defense plans, with the necessary allied capabilities, infrastructure and exercises.

"We are NATO's front line. The Alliance is only as strong as its most vulnerable points are, so strengthening NATO's eastern flank must be our top priority. An aggressive neighbor in our neighborhood understands only one language – force, so we need to be as strong and united as ever and to be as ready as we can be. This is the best deterrent," the Lithuanian leader said.

Nauseda and Sandrart also discussed Lithuania's contribution to the Alliance's force structures and the capabilities of the Multinational North-East Corps.

The meeting was also attended by Lithuania's Chief of Defense General Valdemaras Rupsys.

The commander of the NATO Multinational North-East Corps came to congratulate the Lithuanian army on its 105th restoration anniversary and to take part in the parade of Lithuanian and allied military equipment and troops on Saturday.

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Lithuanian MP Gapsys appeals sentence in political corruption case

VILNIUS, Nov 23, BNS – MP Vytautas Gapsys on Friday appealed to the Supreme Court of Lithuania against the sentence handed down to him by the Court of Appeal in the so-called MG Grupe political corruption case. 

"The appeal has already been filed," he told BNS. 

The MP asks for a full acquittal and a stay of execution of the Court of Appeal's sentence until the case is heard by the Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeal reversed the ruling of the first instance court and convicted all defendants in the high-profile political corruption case centering around MG Grupe (former MG Baltic), one of Lithuania's biggest business groups.

The court found Gapsys, a member of the Labor Party's political group in the parliament, guilty of influence peddling and bribery, and sentenced him to four years and six months in prison. 

It also imposed a five-year ban on Gapsys on holding any elected or appointed position in state or municipal institutions and bodies, companies, and non-state organizations, and ordered him to pay 8,000 euros.

The court found that Raimondas Kurlianskis, a former MG Baltic vice-president, had asked Gapsys to use his position as an MP and his influence on his fellow Labor Party members to influence other public officials.  

In exchange, Gapsys received bribes disguised as an additional 12,100- euro discount for the Labor Party's political advertising and a 15,000 donation to Meno ir Sporto Projektai (Art and Sport Projects), a limited liability public legal entity, according to the court's press release.

Also convicted in this case are Kurlianskis, Eligijus Masiulis, a former MP and chairman of the Liberal Movement, former MPs Sarunas Gustainis and Gintaras Steponavicius, and MG Baltic, the Liberal Movement and the Labor Party as legal entities.

 

 

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Construction of most modern car park near Via Baltica begins in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – The construction of a modern parking and rest area of about 11 hectares has started on the section of the Via Baltica motorway, which is being reconstructed, near the Marijampole-Kybartai road junction, the Lithuanian Road Administration said on Friday, adding hat this will be the most modern rest and parking area in the country.

The new site will have separate areas for goods vehicles, cars, electric vehicles, camper vans, four charging stations for electric vehicles, a building with toilets and showers, and a recreation area. 

The site will be installed by the middle of next year by Fegda and Tilsta, part of the Fegda business group that is reconstructing the Via Baltica section from 56.83 to 72.5 km. The Lithuanian Road Administration signed a contract worth 223.6 million euros, including VAT, with the two companies in June.

This section is the longest and the most technically complex, the LRA said.

Another site is scheduled to be installed next year when the Via Baltica section from 85 to 97 km will be reconstructed. The tender for the contractor is currently under way.

The Via Baltica between Marijampole and the Polish border is one of the busiest sections in Lithuania as almost 14,000 cars a day drive along it every day and half of them are freight vehicles.

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Ukraine's victory is existential issue for the Baltics – Landsbergis in Tallinn

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS - Ukraine's victory is an existential issue not only for the Baltic states but also for the West, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said at the 29th Baltic Council meeting in Tallinn on Friday.

"In 2024, we will have to continue devoting a lot of time and effort to managing crises and preventing their consequences and aftermath. But even worse scenarios are possible, which could directly affect the security of the Baltic states. Today, they no longer seem unrealistic," Lithuania's top diplomat said. "At the moment, the rules-based order is being defended in Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine's victory is an existential issue not only for the Baltic states but also for the West, and our support for Ukraine's fight is a top priority in the short term."

The signs of war fatigue are becoming more visible in the West's posture, he added.

"However, war fatigue is a phenomenon characteristic of societies living in peace. If war fatigue were to overwhelm Ukraine, it would cease to exist. We have to fight this as the West has the structural power to give Ukraine the support it needs to win," Landsbergis said.

The presence of US and NATO forces in the Baltic sates is a key element of the Baltic region's security and defense, he said. 

"We must work towards a permanent US military presence in the Baltic region. But alliances must be mutually beneficial. Therefore, we must be where the US has its eyes on. We need to strengthen cooperation with like-minded partners in the India-Pacific region," Lithuania's top diplomat said.

He also stressed the need to continue putting pressure on Russia through sanctions and to remain active shapers of the EU sanction policy.

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Lithuania made right decisions in responding to threats – NATO corps commander

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuania has made the right decisions in responding to increased threats, Lieutenant General Jurgen-Joachim von Sandrart, commander of NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast, said in Vilnius on Friday.  

"Lithuania is a nation that is well prepared (and) has taken, from my point of view, the right decisions to get even more prepared in close coordination with all Baltic states, with the neighbor Poland and the nations that are engaged there, for example, Germany, which I'm happy about, but also the Americans, the Dutch, the Norwegians, they are all here," von Sandrart told reporters.

The Multinational Corps Northeast commander, accompanied by Lithuania's Chief of Defense General Valdemaras Rupsys, on Friday inspected the military equipment being prepared for Saturday's parade marking the 105th anniversary of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.  

The Lithuanian Armed Forces' Vilkas infantry fighting vehicles and PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers, the US Army's Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs and Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and the Bundeswehr's Leopard tanks, and Puma and Marder IFVs have already been lined up for the parade.

"That shows how far we have come with regard to the integrated, collective cooperation that is built on trust and friendship," the NATO general said, pointing to the military equipment. 

"Lithuania is a front nation. You have a common border with Kaliningrad, which is Russia, you have a common borderline with Belarus, which we consider being highly influenced by Russia, so you have a completely different threat perception that is real and you have reacted properly," he said.

Rupsys said that the military parade has to send a message of deterrence to the enemy by showing that "we are strong, we are united and NATO is strong", and a message of security to the people. 

"Our message to the people is, first and foremost, that they are safe," the chief of defense said. 

"Let's build houses and have children, big families, so that we live in joy, students study and schoolchildren are happy and calm, knowing that we, the Armed Forces, soldiers and allies, are committed to defending our state," he said. 

Von Sandrart came to Vilnius to congratulate the Lithuanian Armed Forces on their 105th anniversary and to participate in the parade of Lithuanian and allied military personnel and equipment. 

Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast is responsible for Allied Land Command operations, including the deployment of the NATO Response Force in the northeastern part of the Alliance. It provides coordination to NATO capabilities deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

 

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Minister asks president to strip Liepa of Lithuanian citizenship

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite on Friday formally asked President Gitanas Nauseda to strip Ilze Liepa, a Russian ballet dancer, of her Lithuanian citizenship granted by way of exception.  

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

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

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

The Migration Department, which was instructed by the Interior Ministry to start the citizenship revocation procedure, has received a response from the State Security Department (SSD) that by denying and publicly justifying Russia's war against Ukraine, Liepa openly denounces the Baltic states for their policies that are not in line with the Kremlin regime's interests.

"Liepa thus clearly expresses support for the international crimes committed by the Russian Federation and its aggressive foreign policy, which poses a threat to Lithuania's national security," according to the press release.

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

In the Foreign Ministry's assessment, Liepa's statements and public information shared on social media platforms bolster the Russian regime's power, aiding in the spreading of the narrative of Russia as a "world savior", disparaging the Western world and its values, and emphasizing Russian "cultural superiority" over the West, which is fully in line with the Kremlin's propaganda.

In the Migration Department's assessment, in her public statements, Liepa identifies herself only as a Russian citizen and declares her allegiance to only one country, which is Russia.

According to the Interior Ministry, Liepa violates her oath of allegiance to Lithuania through her actions and discredits the name of Lithuania and poses a threat to national security interests by collaborating with a regime hostile to Lithuania.  

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

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

Regarding the revocation of Liepa's citizenship, Nauseda said previously that he was waiting for the Interior Ministry's formal request and the Citizenship Commission's recommendations.

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

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

 

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Convicts in MG Grupe corruption case in Lithuania transferred to Kaunas prison

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – The three convicts in the high-profile MG Grupe (formerly known as MG Baltic) political corruption case – Raimondas Kurlianskis, Vytautas Gapsys and Eligijus Masiulis – were transferred to a prison in Lithuania's second-largest city of Kaunas on Friday afternoon.

From there, they will be moved to specific places of serving their prison terms, a law enforcement source told BNS.

All three convicts reported themselves to the police on Friday after the Lithuanian Court of Appeal earlier this week overturned the decision of the court of first instance and handed them ral prison sentences.

Raimondas Kurlianskis, a former MG Baltic vice-president, was sentenced to six years in prison and fines more than 18,800 euros. 

Gapsys, a Labor Party MP, was guilty of influence peddling and pribery and sentenced to four years and six months in prison and a fine of 8,000 euros.

Masiulis, a former leader of the Liberal Movement, was sentenced to five years an six months in prison and was fined 241,500 euros. 

The Prison Service earlier told BNS that the convicts would be delivered to the Kaunas prison and then, within 10 days, relocated to specific incarceration facilities.

According to the service, Kurlianskis may be moved to the prison facilities in Pravieniskes, Alytus, Marjampole or Vilnius, and Masiulis and Gapsys will most likely remain in Kaunas.

According to the case materials, bribes were given to politicians both in the form of cash or donations to public establishments, and even an invitation to appear on a TV program was deemed bribery. The Court of Appeal also found that a bottle of vodka and a bottle box containing money were also bribes given to Masiulis.

By Ingrida Steniulienė

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Lithuanian PM meets with Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv, vows energy sector support

VILNIUS, Nov 24, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte met with her Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv and vowed Lithuania's support to Ukraine's energy sector as the country continues to fight against Russian invasion.

Russia will again target Ukraine's energy facilities and other civilian infrastructure this winter, and Lithuania vows to continue supporting this sector, Simonyte said.

The two prime ministers also signed a joint declaration expressing support for Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations and stressing the need to hold Russia accountable for systemic war crimes and other crimes.

Simonyte also stated that Lithuania would continue supporting Ukraine's aspirations to join the its EU and NATO.

"We are ready to provide all available expertise, administrative capacity-building and other assistance to ensure that Ukraine's progress in implementing the necessary reforms, which is already significant despite the difficulties caused by the war, will allow it to start EU accession negotiations as soon as possible," Simonyte said.

The prime ministers also discussed Ukraine's current defense needs, the use of Russian assets frozen and immobilized by the existing Western sanctions for the reconstruction of Ukraine, and the importance of European solutions in this area.

Earlier in the day, Simonyte paid tribute to those who have died defending Ukraine against Russia.

"At my first stop in Kyiv today, I paid respects to men and women who sacrificed their lives defending the most fundamental rights of a nation: to exist and to live in freedom," Simonyte posted on the X social platform. 

"They gave their lives to also defend all of us. The only way to achieve lasting and just peace is by helping Ukraine win as soon as possible, regain its full territorial integrity, serve international justice, and rebuild stronger," she added. 

The Lithuanian prime minister will stay in Kyiv until Saturday. She is also to meet with the community of the Center for Baltic Studies at Taras Shevchenko National University and attend a ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor.

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Nov 27 2023

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