The Lithuanian State Security Department, or VSD, continues to use a building near Vilnius that allegedly housed a secret American Central Intelligence Agency’s detention facility for its training centre.
According to the Centre of Registers, VSD in April transferred the building in Antaviliai, a village close to Vilnius, to the centralized public property manager Turto Bankas ahead of its planned sale. However, Aurelija Katkuvienė, the department’s spokeswoman, says that the premises continue to be used by intelligence agency for training purposes. Lithuanian officials do not admit that the country hosted a CIA prison.
Lithuania may accept Palestinian representation
After Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al Malki said recently that the Palestinians would like to have embassy in Vilnius within the next six months, adding that the issue will be discussed with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis during his visit to Palestine in June, Lithuania replied it will consider accepting it.
According to Rasa Jakilaitienė, spokeswoman Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed intentions to open a representative office in Vilnius during his visit to the Lithuanian capital back in 2013, but Palestine has taken no steps so far.
Since Lithuania has not recognised the state of Palestine, the Palestinian representation would officially be of a lower rank than an embassy and would probably be called Palestine’s office for relations with Lithuania.
Prime Minister Skvernelis is scheduled to visit Israel and Palestine on June 18 to 20. Some 136 countries have recognized the state of Palestine.
Klaipeda pays tribute to French POWs
Klaipeda paid tribute on Friday, June 1, to French prisoners of war who built the city’s Wilhelm Canal almost 150 years ago. The ceremony was attended, among others, by members of the French Navy Honour Guard who are currently in Lithuania as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group. The French contingent of the multinational battalion consists of nearly 300 troops. They have brought their own combat, supply and administrative equipment to Lithuania. The canal linking the port of Klaipeda with the River Minija and eventually with the River Nemunas was hand dug between 1863 and 1873. It was named after Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.
Largest ever national military exercise kicked off
Thunder Strike 2018, the largest national exercise in the history of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, was kicked off on Friday, June 1. The Lithuanian Armed Forces will train, independently and jointly with NATO allies, to carry out a wide range of armed defence operations during the two-week drills, the Defence Ministry said. Thunder Strike is one of several military exercises to be held in Lithuania and other countries in the Baltic Sea region in June. Thunder Strike will involve up to 9,000 military servicemen and officers of the interior security system. The Ministry says that drills in Lithuania will involve up to 13,000 troops.
US decision on tariffs upsets Lithuania
Lithuanian officials say that the US decision to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports is very disappointing, but does not mean a trade war. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Albinas Zananavi
ius, Lithuania is «very disappointed», because the intensive talks between the European Commission and the United States, and efforts by other European countries to persuade them not to apply these measures against the EU failed. A 25 per cent tariff on steel imports and a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico will take effect on Friday.
Prosecutors want to see the ECHR ruling first
Lithuanian prosecutors say they will decide on further steps in their ongoing pre-trial investigation after examining in detail the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that the country hosted a secret CIA detention facility. The Prosecutor General’s Office said in a press release on Thursday, May 31, that they actively cooperated with the ECHR in its hearing of Abu Zubaydah’s complaint against Lithuania and provided the court with information related with its pre-trial investigation.
The Prosecutor General’s Office has not named any suspects in its pre-trial investigation regarding illegal transportation of people across the national border and abuse of office, which has been underway for more than four years now.
South Africa’s NEPI Rockcastle to buy Vilnius’ Ozas mall
South Africa’s commercial property investor and developer NEPI Rockcastle is reportedly buying the Ozas shopping complex in Vilnius from Germany’s ECE Projektmanagement. Latvia-based consultancy CBRE Baltics is providing services to the parties to the transaction.
Ruling party leaders wants new probes
The leaders of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) on Thursday, May 31, called for new investigations into businesses’ influence on politics. The calls come after the parliament’s Committee on National Security and Defence (CNSD) completed on Wednesday, May 30, its probe into business and interest groups’ influence on political processes and decision-makers. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who was appointed to his post by LFGU, says that further investigations should disclose the circumstances surrounding possibly non-transparent funding of political parties.
PM backs establishment of intelligence ombudsman
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that he backs the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence’s (CNSD) proposal to establish the institution of intelligence ombudsman to help ensure better control of security services. CNSD on Wednesday, May 30, approved the findings of its investigation into businesses’ unlawful influence on political processes. The committee says, among other things, that Russia’s nuclear energy giant Rosatom and MG Baltic, a local business group, posed a threat to Lithuania’s national security by acting non-transparently and exerting unlawful influence on political processes.
Ex-SIS head becomes chief of Centre of Register
Saulius Urbanavičius, former head of Lithuania’s Special Investigation Service, has won the competition for the position of head of the Centre of Registers. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Urbanavičius will assume the position upon receipt of law enforcement institutions’ conclusions. The position of the Centre of Registers’ director has been vacant over a year after its long-standing director Kęstutis Sabaliauskas resigned last February.
Lithuania will try to get more EU money
Lithuania’s government will try to negotiate more of EU cohesion support for regional development after the European Commission suggested cutting such support by 13 per cent in the new budget, Vice Minister of Finance Miglė Tuskienė says. In her words, Lithuania will try to negotiate with other EU member states and the European Parliament for the support to be cut less. Earlier on Tuesday, May 28, the EC proposed allocating 6.359 billion euros to Lithuania’s regional development in the European Union’s budget from 2021, down 12.9 per cent from 7.3 billion euros in the 2014-2020 budget.