Lithuania: Brewing watergate and depleting sanitisers

Newsletter – March 6, 2020

LITHUANIAN WATERGATE

An unnamed whistleblower from Lithuania’s intelligence delivered a  bombshell   this week. He claims he was ordered to collect information about several candidates in last year’s presidential race.

Among them – the eventual winner Gitanas Nausėda, as well as the former foreign minister and the EU’s ambassador to Moscow, Vygaudas Ušackas. The latter claims that his team was indeed subjected to intimidation during the campaign, but President Nausėda has  reasserted   his trust in the intelligence service.

While the service itself, the VSD, emphatically  rejects   the accusations, the claims may prove explosive. Stay tuned.

CORONAVIRUS

Days after Lithuania called a state of emergency over the coronavirus last week, the country  confirmed   its first case. A woman returning from Verona in Italy tested positive for Covid-19 and was isolated in a hospital in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania, with reportedly mild.

While no new coronavirus cases emerged in Lithuania over the ensuing week, the country is  alarmed  : shops are running out of hand  sanitisers  , airlines are  canceling   flights and even some of the independence day events next week  will not go ahead  .

Can it be that we are overreacting,  ask   our partners at Emerging Europe.

SOUR PASTRIES

The American rap rock band Limp Bizkit  received   a rather lukewarm welcome at a recent concert in Lithuania which filled only about an eighth of the hall. The band leader’s past pro-Putin statements must not have endeared him to Lithuanian fans.

WHEN IN ROME

Coronavirus or not, Lithuanian independence day celebrations will go ahead in Rome where the ancient  Colosseum   will be lit in yellow, green and red on March 10, the eve of Lithuania’s 30th anniversary of independence.

Meanwhile in Tel Aviv, a Lithuanian-Jewish organisation is  boycotting   independence day celebrations over a controversial proposal from an MP. He has suggested a resolution stating that the Lithuanian nation played no part in the Holocaust.

POLITICS IN BRIEF

As the election year is gaining momentum, parties are picking their flagship candidates. The conservatives have  decided   they will be led by Ingrida Šimonytė, the former finance minister who did quite well in last year’s presidential race.

Meanwhile the prime minister, still apparently incensed by the president’s rejection of his candidate for economy minister, said there would  no longer be   an economy ministry by next autumn.

There is also a reshuffle in the PM’s own team. Skirmantas Malinauskas, a high-profile adviser and the spokesman for the government’s coronavirus response,  announced   he was stepping down due to disagreements with the health minister.

LOVE AND HATE

Lithuania’s top court patted itself on the back over a recent landmark ruling recognising a same-sex union contracted abroad. While Lithuania does not have gay marriage, the ruling is a step towards “Western-level tolerance,”  according   to the president of the Constitutional Court.

But are we there yet? Last weekend, a well-known drag performer was hit in a Vilnius bar in what he believes was a  homophobic attack  .

WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?

asks   Lithuanian MFA chancellor Laimonas Talat-Kelpša. Despite solid economic growth, the Lithuanian society still feels depressed – is the past traumas and inability to deal with them to blame?

Or could it be the weather? While Lithuanians like to complain about the freezing cold, this year was the  warmest winter   on record and almost completely snowless for the first time.

FACTS

In late January, a plane belonging to a Russian oligarch under US sanctions  landed in Vilnius airport  . What was it doing there and could Lithuanian companies face US sanctions?

LRT.LT

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