Archive for January, 2008

Lithuania possesses means to complicate Russia’s nuclear ambitions in Kaliningrad

KaliningradAs the BNS reported should Russia decide to deploy a nuclear weapon in its Kaliningrad enclave, Lithuania would have to block the eastern neighbour’s military transit through its territory, a Lithuanian political scientist has said.

The interview was conducted with the director of Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Raimundas Lopata.

The political scientist told the BNS that with regards to the reasoning afloat from Russia about potential deployment of a nuclear weapon in its Kaliningrad enclave – neighbouring Lithuania and Poland – that “such proposals coming from the experts of cold war are beyond all sensible limits”.

The BNS reminded that the chief of Russian Armed Forces’ Main Directorate for Combat Training and Service, Vladimir Shamanov mentioned on 30 January that the Defence Ministry, in view of US plans to create an anti-missile defence system (ADS) in Europe, plans to adjust the deployment of military blocs in Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave’s special district.

Furthermore, Leonid Ivasov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues, appended this statement with a comment to Russia’s news agency Interfax, saying that should the US go through with its plans, Russia would deploy Iskander operational-tactical missile complexes (OTMC) and a tactical nuclear weapon in Kaliningrad to suit.

“If this was a fact, the Lithuanian state would have to respond accordingly, prepare for hazards and at least cut off military provisions to Kaliningrad, which currently have to pass through Lithuanian territory”, said Lopata in an interview to BNS, adding that it is still unknown whether the nuclear weapon that was previously deployed in Kaliningrad has in fact been lifted from there.

In the opinion of the political scientist, Russia’s decision to deploy a nuclear weapon in the enclave bordering with Lithuania and Poland would be a completely inadequate reaction on Russia’s part to US plans to deploy an anti-missile radar and a missile silo in Poland. Lopata notes that it is no secret that the US system is not pointed against Russia.

The political scientist remarked that Russia’s nuclear ambitions would not only be a challenge to Lithuania, but the entire region and strategic partners as well.

Lithuania states that the US quest to deploy elements of an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic corresponds to its security interests.

January 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm 9 comments

Suspect in Medininkai Massacre case arrested for 3 months

Mikhailov (Nikulin) Source alfa.ltThis blog wrote about Medininkai Massacre committed by then Riga OMON Special Purpose Police Squad of Russia against the unarmed Lithuanian border guards in 1991.  All suspects of this crime are still at large.  Majority of them are under protection of the Russian Federation.

However, recently the Latvian authorities arrested one of the suspects who was living in Latvia. As the BNS writes the suspect in this 17 year-old case concerning the killing of seven Lithuanian officers and injuring of one, was detained by Latvian law-enforcement officers on Novvember 28 of last year, based on the European warrant for his arrest issued by Lithuania.

The BNS informed that Latvia’s Supreme Court rejected Mikhailov’s (Nikulin) request to not be extradited to Lithuania. He was under the witness security program in Latvia for having helped Latvian officers solve crimes committed in the country’s territory, and was therefore allowed to change his last name. The suspect will be under his new surname in the case being investigated in the Prosecutor General’s Office in Lithuania.The 40-year-old suspect was extradited to Lithuania by Latvia on January 28.

The suspect’s interrogation lasted three hours. The detainee was brought over to the prosecutor’s office by masked and armed Lithuanian SWAT team Aras officers.

The prosecutor hasn’t revealed whether Mikhailov plead guilty with regards to the suspicions presented against him. It is however known that the suspect does not deny having been in Lithuania in July of 1991.The BNS wrote that the Vilnius’ Second District Court set a three month arrest period for the ex-member of OMON, who is a suspect in eastern Lithuanian border check-point murder case.

The prosecutor presented suspicions to Konstantin Mikhailov (Nikulin) for first-degree murder of two or more persons in connection with their duties, i.e. for participating in the massacre at Medininkai check-point.

So far this is the only suspect that the Lithuanian law enforcers have succeeded to find and officially indict.

January 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

Adamkus interview to the Swedish SR. Updated – ’We will try to expand lifespan of the old Ignalina nuclear plant’

Sveriges RadioThe Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus gave an interview to the Swedish National Radio SR.

The main topic of the interview was a closure of the Iganalina Nuclear pant.  However, the president stated that there are signs that the European Union may consider Lithuania’s request to extend operation of the Ignalina N-plant after year 2009, by which time the plant should have been closed.

As the BNS noted the President said that “I’ve heard very encouraging first signals that they (EU – BNS) are considering reviewing some clauses. (…) Probably in the interest of Lithuania’s request, should it be submitted. (…) We can at the least start a dialogue”,.

The Lithuanian President said he sees no reasons why governments of other Baltic Sea region countries wouldn’t back Lithuania’s wish to extend the operation of the Ignalina N-plant. In the opinion of Adamkus, such actions would be egoistic and illogical.

Furthermore, Adamkus emphasized that the period between year 2009 and the time when the new N-plant – still in planning stage – would begin operations, would be of detriment to the development of Lithuania and the entire region and would further digress the country from European economic standards.

After the closing of the Ignalina N-plant, Lithuania would be at a shortage of 1.4 b kilowatt electrical power per year.

However, as the BNS informed the President notes that should Brussels decide against the extended operation of the Ignalina N-plant after all, Lithuania would apply its international undertakings. Lithuania committed to closing the Ignalina N-plant, which contains a Russian RBMK type reactor – deemed unsafe in the West – after its accession to the European Union (EU).

When talking about Lithuania’s joint plans with Latvia, Estonia and Poland to build a new power plant, Adamkus admitted that the process has been delayed; however didn’t agree that these intentions are only talks. The president noted that constructive preparation works are underway.

When asked whether the larger EU countries provide enough support to Lithuania in its relations with Russia pertinent to energy supply, Adamkus said he believes that there is enough support and understanding on Lithuania’s position.

Lithuania, just as its neighbours Latvia and Estonia, is referred to as the European Union (EU) “energy isle”, because it is entirely dependent on resource supply from Russia, and projects of links with the energy systems of Western Europe are still in the stage of discussions and negotiations.

The President also noted that his French colleague Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to visit Lithuania in the period of the next two months.

The French president was invited to visit the Vilnius Conference on Energy Security, which took place last Oct., however Sarkozy went to meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at that time instead.  Asked to give his reaction to this Mr. President ironically noted that he could not compete with the Russian President.  He asked the journalist ‘If you got an invitation for an interview from Mr Putin and myself at the same time I would not doubt that you would chose to go to Moscow.  Lets be practical about it’.

Listen to the interview in English     

January 26, 2008 at 3:37 pm 2 comments

Lithuanian President in Davos – EU should not signed new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement

Adamkus making the speech.  Source www.president.ltThe President of Lithuanian made a speech, during a dinner discussion on Russian and its neighbours in Davos.  The speech was made day after a controversial remark by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice  who noted  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the recent talk about a new Cold War is hyperbolic nonsense.’

Lithuanian President called the EU not to rush signed the new agreements with Russia, since the Kremlin does not comply with the already signed agreements ‘There is no necessity to rush with the new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the so called post-PCA, as well. The relationship of the international community with Russia should correspond to the level of Russia‘s readiness to commit to the international community.’

President Adamkus continued that ‘It is necessary to allow Russia define the level of its global responsibility itself and accordingly to define our relations with Russia. If Russia is seeking global responsibility and a global role, there are some benchmarks to be overcome:
- to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova, which is foreseen under the Istanbul Agreements;
- to ratify the Energy Charter;
- to follow the promises made when joining the Council of Europe;
- to follow intergovernmental agreements with other countries, including the Baltic States.’

Read all speech also watch and listen to the speech on the YouTube.

January 26, 2008 at 3:02 pm 1 comment

Davos – Lithuania is obliged to make caution of possible dangers in relations with Russia

The Presidential PalaceAfter few years of ignorance Davos organizers invited the Lithuanians to the Forum.  This ignorance was due to the Lithuania’s unfortunate choice of the president Rolandas Paksas, who was impeached for the first time in the modern European history.  Even though the order in the Lithuanian politics was restored the Davos organisers were ignoring Lithuania for few yeas.  However, Lithuanian ‘come back’ is overshadowed by a ‘surprise’ from our ally – the USA.

This year the Lithuania’s President Valdas Adamkus is due to participate in the high level discussion about Russia and its relation to its neighbours.  The discussion is due this evening.  Just before departure to Davos the President Adamkus gave an interview to the Financial Times where he asked a rhetorical question “The question comes up whether a very strong financial recovery in Russia is a stimulus for the new Russian leadership to return to the cold war”.  The President in the interview concluded that “It’s a big question mark. I don’t believe that at the present time any of us, big or small – the European Union, the US or other big powers – definitely has the answer. But I believe the same big question is in every­body’s mind in the western world.”

However, this rhetorical question arose a reaction.  Not from the Kremlin but from Washington.  Next day the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the recent talk about a new Cold War is hyperbolic nonsense.’

Some Lithuanian commentators claimed that this statement was not addressed to the Adamkus’ interview just a day earlier.  As Prof Lopata stated to the BNS “When speaking in Davos, Rice was neither criticizing Adamkus nor had him in mind at all. She was talking about the general situation and relations with Russia, and actually noted that talking about a cold war with Russia at this time is nonsense”, the political scientist told BNS.

The other commentators stated that the phrase was directed exactly towards Adamkus and continued that Washington gently reminded Vilnius that it should not stick its nose to the Global politics.  The American Forbes agreed with the latter opinion and ironically claimed that ‘Take that, Valdas’.

Lithuania’s Presidential press office responded that Rice words were not directed to President Adamkus and that during an interview to the Financial Times, Adamkus remarked that Kremlin was creating “unnecessary tensions” in the Baltics, much reminding of the cold war period.  The BNS was told that “The president notes that Lithuania lives in the neighbourhood of Russia, and it is Lithuania’s obligation to warn about possible dangers and also pursue a common dialogue with Russia it is difficult, but unavoidable”.

Some in Lithuania is making far-reaching conclusions and questioning Lithuania’s active role in the Post Soviet states.

I must admit that I have some doubts about the benefits for Lithuania in ‘spreading democracy’ to the Russia’s neighbours.  However, you like it or not the Lithuanian specialists are experts in the Russian politics, because they pay a lot of attention to what is happening there.  Sometimes I think that we are paying to much attention towards East, meanwhile missing some huge political and economical shifts in the EU itself.  Nevertheless, the policy and ideology shifts in Russia are alarming, and we would like to communicate that to the Westerners, who don’t really realise that.

At the time when Mr Putin took over the Kremlin I was living in the UK and I could witness when the Western specialists on Russia claimed that is a very welcome development.  They loudly ridiculed warnings that Mr Putin is not a democrat and that he is turning Russia back to totalitarian status.  Many of those voices were coming from Lithuania also, but we were called ‘Russophobes’.

Well, look what is happening in Russia now.  Hence, maybe the West should listen to Adamkus rhetorical question?         

January 25, 2008 at 5:49 pm 2 comments

Lithuania should join the Nordic energy system

BaltoscandiaAs the BNS informed Lithuania is interested in building an energy link to Sweden and joining the Nordic energy market without delay.  Lithuanian PM Kirkilas said this during his one day trip to  Stockholm on Tuesday.

As the  PM’s press office wrote at a meeting with Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, Kirkilas also informed him about the course of development of the new nuclear power plant project, the governmental press service reported.

The heads of the Lithuanian and Swedish governments discussed possible ecologic risks of laying the gas pipeline Nordstream on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. In Kirkilas’ opinion, it requires an independent assessment of environmental effects and consultations with all countries to be influenced by the project.

PM Kirkilas also met with various officials from the sister Social Democratic party and the Trade Unions, addressed the SAMAK’s Annual Meeting 2008.

January 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

Lithuanian political Right and Left are looking to Sweden for inspiration

BaltoscandiaSince the Lithuanian parliamentary elections are to be held in this Autumn the Lithuanian political parties starting to gather their momentum in the preparation for the election campaign.

The election is not going to straight forward since the populist left and right are gathering the strength and the ‘traditional’ parties such as Social Democrats and the Conservatives will have to be satisfied with bigger or smaller role in one or another coalition.  Still, it is a long way to go, and in Lithuanian political reality it is possible to turn a political tide in one month.

Nevertheless it is interesting that Lithuanian traditional parties ‘discovered’ socially just Sweden ruled by the Centre Right government.

The Conservatives often mention success story of the Swedish Alliance.  Since the Centre Right forces are fractured the Conservatives and the Liberal Movement came up with idea to form a similar Alliance in Lithuania.  This ‘Alliance for Lithuania’ will be presented in Vilnius this Friday.

The Social Democrats, who are in the ruling minority coalition government, and pretty much ‘ruling’ the government also would like to use some of the Swedish experience in the Progressive Taxes.

As daily Respublika mention Prime Minister Kirkilas, meanwhile on the official to Sweden asked the Swedish Social Democrats to help enlighten Lithuanian public about the Progressive Taxation benefits.  According to the paper Kirkilas has invited the head of the Swedish Social Democrats Mona Sahlin to make a speech on the topic in an international conference which will be held next month in Vilnius.

Hence, it will be interesting which party will benefit the most form the positive experience of Lithuanian neighbour.  It might be useful for the both parties to benefit from the same ‘source’ since some commentators predict that the both parties might be forced to create a rainbow coalition after the elections.

January 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm 1 comment

Detained suspect in Lithuanian murder case to be given over to Vilnius from Riga

Medininkai, Nikulin.  Source; Lrytas.ltAs the BNS noted a suspect in Medininkai border checkpoint murder case, Konstantin Nikulin, will be extradited to Lithuania.

This decision was made by Latvia’s Supreme Court, which dismissed Nikulin’s request to not be extradited to Lithuania.

Nimkulin should be given over to Lithuanian law enforcement over a period of three weeks.

As the BNS informed and this blog remained the suspect was detained by Latvian law-enforcement officers on Nov. 28 of last year, based on the European warrant for his arrest issued by Lithuania.

Latvia’s Prosecutor General’s Office had agreed to extradite the detained former OMON Special Purpose Police Squad hit man and one of the suspects in a case of manslaughter in Medininkai border checkpoint of eastern Lithuania, 40-year-old Konstantin Nikulin.

The BNS writes that the suspect in this 17 year-old case concerning the killing of seven Lithuanian officers and injuring of one, had appealed to Latvia’s Supreme Court regarding the decision to extradite him to Lithuania, therefore he remained in Latvia until the court reached its final verdict.

Nikulin, together with three other suspects, also ex-members of OMON – Aleksandr Ryzhov, Andrej Laktionov and Ceslav Mlynik – was wanted as suspect in a murder case.

The latter three suspects are Russian citizens, who reside there and are as of yet not accessible to Lithuania’s law enforcers.

After Latvia extradites Nikulin to Lithuania, the prosecution process can be started in Lithuania. According to Lithuania’s legislation, Nikulin will face life in prison for first-degree murder of more than two persons.

The Prosecutor General’s Office has been investigating one of the cruellest crimes committed in Lithuania — the massacre of the Medininkai checkpoint staff — for 17 years.

The BNS reminds that the pre-trial investigation has established that the first 7 police and customs officers of the independent Lithuania were killed and the sole survivor Tomas Šernas was grievously wounded as a result of doing their duty.

Stationed on duty on July 31, 1991, the men died of headshots from Kalashnikov assault rifles.  The data collected in the process of the pre-trial investigation allow the prosecutors to suspect that hit men of the former Soviet Union’s militia special operations unit OMON did the crime from Riga, who were visiting the OMON base in Vilnius on July 30, 1991.

Another group of militia from Riga’s OMON set off an explosive device at the headquarters of the 42nd division of the Soviet Union on L.Sapiegos Street in Vilnius on the very same night.

At the time of the investigation, the larger part of the rifles seized from the victims have been found.

The investigation of the manslaughter at Medininkai checkpoint is aggravated by the fact that the suspects and a lot of important witnesses reside in Russia.

The seven officers were believed to have been killed in Medininkai to cause confusion at the customs of the country that had just declared its independence. At that time, OMON hit men would quite often assault checkpoints and beat up officers stationed there.

Lithuanians were forced to act peacefully by the political circumstances of the time, and the culprits did not receive an adequate response.

There is available information that Medininkai check-point was chosen for the uncanny crime with personal revenge motives.

The BNS reminds that on the morning of July 31st of 1991, killers, who as of yet haven’t been tried, murdered border guards Antanas Musteikis, Stanislovas Orlavičius, Aras SWAT unit officers Algimantas Juozakas and Mindaugas Balavakas, road police employees Juozas Janonis and Algirdas Kazlauskas with shots to the head.

Police officer who experienced heavy injuries during the attack, Ricardas Rabavičius, died in the hospital Aug. 2nd. The sole officer who survived the attack was Tomas Šernas, who also experienced heavy injuries at the time of the attack.

January 21, 2008 at 9:20 pm 1 comment

Schengen, what is a difference between Maxima in Kaunas and Tartu

Maxima in EstoniaSchengen and globalization seems starting to impose some pressure on some Lithuanians.  As the Estonian and Lithuanian press reported a Lithuanian lady Jolanta showed that not every Balt benefited from those two phenomena.

Mrs. Jolanta, who is 33 and working as a cleaner in a Kaunas’ Maxima grocery shop (it is a Lithuanian run supermarket chain which operates in all three Baltic States) was going to work in an early morning.  Her work is situated 125 km from her home and strangely enough the lady was commuting there by hitchhiking.

Mrs Jolanta, who does not speak Russian stopped a Russian lorry heading the North and asked the driver ‘to take her to Maxima’.  A kind driver agreed and the tired lady fell asleep.  The driver woken up Mrs Jolanta in a front of a Maxima shop.  It was still dark and after a nap without any doubt that she was taken to her work place she walked into the shop to assume here duties.

Then there were some conflicting accounts but one of them tells that Jolanta started to clean the floor, however she began acting suspiciously and this was noted by the shop’s security.

A security person comes to investigate and starts to speak to already confused Mr Jolanta in Estonian, which should not be a strange coincidence, since this Maxima is situated not in Kaunas but in the city of Tartu, Estonia…

A translator to Lithuanian had to found since Mr Jolanta could not speak any other language.  Eventually the Lithuanian Embassy took care of all affairs.

Hence, apparently the Russian driver took the cleaner to a Maxima shop he was aware of, drove her all the way through Lithuania and Latvia to Estonia.  Meanwhile Mrs Jolanta slept all the way to Tartu to wake to the evening darkness, which she took for the morning darkness.

Even though I have to admit that I found it very difficult to believe in this story, and I am convinced that some other ‘disturbing’ details will come out later still…  I hope that the benefits of the globalization will bring those times when Jolanta would not notice a difference not only between Lithuania and Estonia, but also between Lithuanian and, lets say Sweden.

January 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm 5 comments

A snow (rain) meeting in Lithuania

Rain and DanceAs the BNS informed foreign policy strategists from the United States, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania gathered in Vilnius on Thursday for an informal discussion of challenges to Euro-Atlantic dialogue.

The two-day meeting is attended by representatives of Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Swedish governments (Carl Bildt is going to participate also), foreign affairs and defence ministries, the US Department of State and the presidential administration and the European Commission’s Development Directorate and experts of US analytical centres.Among participants is Deputy Assistant to US Vice-President for National Security Affairs Joseph R. Wood and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried.

According to information available to BNS, some participants of the Snow Summit preferred to remain unnamed.

BNS has also learned that the informal meeting was named the Snow Summit in hopes of Lithuania being covered with snow and had no other code meaning.

The BNS informed that the Lithuanian foreign policy analysts say that the meeting is held amid tendencies of stalling Euro-Atlantic integration in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus. Participants will exchange ideas and search for new instruments to accelerate the process, which is stalled by the fresh democracies in the regions and the Russian efforts to impede their Euro-Atlantic bids.

The experts say that the informal consultations of NATO partners last decade contributed to the Euro-Atlantic integration efforts in the Baltic states, which have already achieved NATO and European Union (EU) membership. Revival of the practice in Lithuania is expected.

According to information available to BNS, other items on the agenda of the Snow Summit include European-American cooperation in the context of energy, as well as perspectives of relations between European and US partners in the North Atlantic Alliance, which have alienated following the US invasion of Iraq.

According to the latest information available (just looked out of the window from my Vilnius home) the Snow meeting is going to turn into a Rain meeting since it is raining in Vilnius.  Is that an another consequence of the global worming?  Well, the participants of the meeting will not discuss that.  Besides, as we say in Lithuania ‘Čia Lietuva, čia lietūs lyja’ (It’s Lithuania, it rains here).  Please note that in Lithuanian ‘Lietuva’ is Lithuania and ‘lietus’ is rain.

January 18, 2008 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

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