Posts filed under ‘Ukraine’
See an article from Lithuanian daily Lietuvos zinios about possible links between investigation into death of the Lithuanian State Security Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and the current investigations of alleged secret CIA prisons in Lithuania.
Article by Jurga Tvaskiene: “State in Swamp of Double Lies”, November 26
The habit to lie to the Seimas’ ad hoc commissions, which was introduced by senior state officials, has become a norm. MPs try to fight against this with proposals to introduce prison sentences for those who give false testimonies. If such measures were applied earlier, perhaps now we would know whose interests killed Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and how those who obstructed the investigation into his death are tied to the new scandal related to CIA prisons in Lithuania.
Politicians do not lie – they just do not tell the whole truth. Such a joke can be found on Lithuanian Internet portals. Yet, MPs, who form ad hoc probe commissions in the Seimas in order to find answers to questions that often are unsolvable even to law enforcement officers, are not laughing. Especially, when after testifying before the Seimas’ investigators senior officials admit they have been talking gibberish. And do not get punished.
The increasingly deeper swamp of lies is especially worrisome now, when the Seimas is conducting a probe into the possible existence of a CIA prison in Lithuania. People, who three years ago lied and practically destroyed the probe into the death of Pociunas, a colonel of the State Security Department (VSD), and into the real motives of the VSD activities, will probably be invited to testify in this probe. [passage omitted on the fact that former senior officials of Lithuania denied having any knowledge about the alleged CIA prison].
In April 2004, Rolandas Paksas, who had been president for a mere year and a half, was impeached from his post. Soon after that, Valdas Adamkus returned to this post and transferred actual control of the country to other persons. Including VSD leaders, who during Paksas’ impeachment process, together with other persons desiring influence, got used to doing whatever they liked in Lithuania.
Assistance to Russian special services representatives in developing their businesses in Lithuania, manipulations with classified reports, pandering to the interests of a small group of people, and, on the other hand, attempts to cover their moves with Western partners’ demands. These were daily activities of the VSD leadership.
In addition, one should not forget that the CIA, which after the events of 11 September 2001 declared a war on international terrorism, was spending huge amounts of money on this. Only now in the US scandals are starting that money allocated for antiterrorism activities were spend on unclear things, but the declared goal has not been achieved.
In the spring of 2004, a group of persons who understand each other very well assembled at the VSD. Thanks to lies, Gintaras Bagdonas was not allowed to become VSD director (Bagdonas, who had been proposed to this post by Paksas, was not suitable for Lithuania, but was greatly evaluated by NATO leadership). After that, KGB reserve officer Arvydas Pocius became VSD director. He was met by Dainius Dabasinskas, who had been a VSD deputy director since 2001 and who had been sent there by the Foreign Ministry. Soon after, Darius Jurgelevicius was also appointed [a VSD deputy director] with the same type recommendations.
By the way, the year 2005 became the year of financial prosperity for these men. The representatives of Lithuania’s poor law enforcement sector started driving luxury cars. For example, Dabasinskas started driving a brand new US-made Chrysler. Was it a gift from CIA colleagues? That same year Dabasinskas, who until then had been renting an apartment in Turniskes, purchased it for more than a half a million litas. This information surfaced only a few years later, when it turned out the apartment had cost less than the market price at the time, and the circumstances of the sale resembled a bribe.
Dabasinskas, just as the other fate brothers, was merely reprimanded, but retained his post. [passage omitted on an overview of the parliamentary probe into the death of VSD officer Pociunas].
On 8 August, Jurgelevicius requested to be discharged from his service at the VSD due to “personal reasons,” without even waiting until VSD Director Povilas Malakauskas returned to work from his unexpected sick leave. Until that moment MPs, who conducted a probe, and civic groups, who were demanding adherence to the principles of justice in Lithuania, were unable to oust Jurgelevicius from his post. After President Dalia Grybauskaite granted his request, the official immediately went as far from Lithuania as possible – it was said he became the Georgian interior minister’s adviser. Considering the fact that Georgia is actively trying to gain greater patronage from the US and therefore may be ready to make various concessions, Jurgelevicius’ desire to work in the institution, which oversees law enforcement and security structures of that country, in the current context may raise various thoughts.
A week after Jurgelevicius’ resignation there was the second news – without commenting on the reasons for his decision, Dabasinskas, Jurgelevicius’ colleague, left his post, too. After receiving a recommendation from the VSD in a record time, he was sent by the Foreign Ministry to work at the embassy in Ukraine.
Exactly two weeks later, American TV station ABC News announced the first information about the CIA prison in Lithuania. One can have various assessments of the Lithuanian VSD inside the country, but it would hard to reject the well-developed ties with foreign partners (especially with the US partners). Thus, it is possible that Jurgelevicius and Dabasinskas, who held high posts inside the VSD, much earlier that the public received information that US media started digging and would soon reveal the information, which had been kept secret for a few years.
It was also only a matter of time before similar news from this or that VSD officer tied to the CIA activities in our country was going reach the public in Lithuania. It was said that even VSD leaders once in a while among themselves were wondering about their subordinates’ silence, which they could not understand.
One can think that VSD heads, who had gained the backing of previous Lithuanian leadership one way or another, realized that to get away this time would not be as easy as during the probe into the death of Pociunas and into the VSD activities related to his death. The countries, which are seen as Lithuania’s friends and which do not belong to the EU (with all of its strict rules), are an excellent shelter in the increasingly difficult situation.
Moreover, if Lithuania this time decides to defend the truth and law, the characters who damaged the country’s reputation probably will not avoid responsibility. [passage omitted on international law Professor Dainius Zalimas's opinion that the state and its officials would be responsible for alleged human rights violations at the CIA prison and on proposals to introduce accountability for false testimony before parliamentary committees].
Translated by the BBC Monitoring
As the BNS informed a Russian NGO’s bid to start issuing so-called Russian Charters to nationals living in foreign states may come as a threat to Lithuania.
The Baltic state’s re-elected Member of European Parliament conservative Vytautas Landsbergis on Saturday thus commented to BNS news of the endeavour. “This may become a dangerous thing, but this will depend on Russia’s policy and on how many people get tempted by this Russian Charter. It can lead to ample provocations,” the MEP said.
The Russian Charter will act as a document confirming voluntary commitment to the state and people of Russia, the country’s regnum.ru web portal said on Friday.
Landsbergis picked at the notion of making commitments to a foreign state, when, in fact, one is a citizen of yet another. “It would be strange if Lithuanian citizens would make commitments to the state of Russia. By undertaking such commitments the citizens would be hypocritical. This comes as a black-hearted move on their (Russia’s – BNS) part, one aimed at provoking and unsettling the state of Lithuania,” the conservative spoke.
Landsbergis didn’t dismiss the possibility that the idea to start issuing the document in question was coordinated with the Russian authorities.
“I don’t think Russian authorities were kept in the dark. This should rouse anxiety among neighbouring states, especially Ukraine and Belarus,” said the MEP.
According to Landsbergis, the Polish Charter may have served as a poor example in this particular case.
The charters will be issued first of all to Russians living in the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan, the Russian portal said.
It is necessary to take action that the approximately 30 million of Russians living outside the country maintain their ties with the historic homeland, are supported and defended, Leonid Shershnev, head of the foundation which initiated the bid, told the portal.
Recipients of the charter are likely to be eligible to certain privileges, including economic ones, like discounts. The portal notes this practice as being in place in other countries as well, referring to the Polish Charter.
A number of Lithuanian poles living in the Vilnius region, including former MP and future MEP Valdemar Tomasevski and MP Michal Mackevic, have the Polish Charter.
News of Lithuania’s MPs having the Polish Charter spurred initiatives to question whether this document is compatible with an MP mandate and whether it is in line with the country’s Organic Law, however the Seimas voted against addressing the Constitutional Court over this matter.
The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.
“The Polish Charter is a document proving your Polish origin. The charter provides its holders with the rights stipulated in the the Law on the Polish Charter adopted by the Polish Sejm on Sept. 7 2007,” reads an official brochure of the Polish Charter.
Persons holding the charter can receive long-term visas free of charge, get legal employment in Poland, carry out economic activities under the same conditions as Polish citizens, have rights to free education, emergency medical assistance, 37 percent discount off railway tickets, free access to state museums and priority right in applications for financial assistance from Polish state and municipal budgets for supporting Poles living abroad.
A brochure on the Polish Charter also underlines that having one is not the same as having Polish citizenship.
The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.
Lithuania is among the top five enemies of Russia. This was revealed by a recent public opinion poll in Russia. One can say that the notion of Lithuania as an enemy was inculcated into the heads of common Russians by the Kremlin’s propaganda. This is true, but it does not change the essence of the issue. Unlike in 1990-1991, today Lithuania would not be able to count on moral support from Russians, which was one of the reasons why we were successful in our quest for independence. Later, when we were negotiating over the withdrawal of Russian troops from Lithuania, favourable opinion about us among common Russians was also a very important factor.
Even ten years later, when we were trying to join NATO, one of the arguments our politicians and diplomats used in the talks with the Western partners was a poll that showed the majority of Russians did not object to our membership in the alliance. The poll also said that our membership in the alliance would not harm Russia’s relations with NATO, something Moscow’s politicians were trying to claim. Therefore, Russian politicians drew certain conclusions and started fixing the mistake of their propaganda, which at that time still counter-positioned the “good” Lithuania against the “bad” Latvia and Estonia.
Thanks to the efforts by the Kremlin’s propaganda masters, in 2004-2005 Vilnius got involved in a fierce verbal war against Moscow. The war lasted till 2008 and did not produce anything good for Lithuania: The Druzhba [friendship] oil pipeline was not reopened, the talks over compensation for the occupation damages did not commence, the Medininkai murderers were not extradited. The only thing we achieved was the loss of allies in the EU.
Russia, meanwhile, gained a strong argument in the discussions with the EU and NATO. From dawn till dusk the EU and NATO were told: “Did we not tell you that by accepting those intrigue-loving Baltic states, you would gain a source of constant disagreements with Russia?”
In 2004-2005, Russians’ opinion about the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia has started to get worse. This showed that harming the ties with the closest neighbours in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was a deliberate and pre-planned policy of Moscow.
A fruit of this policy could be observed in May 2007, when during rioting by Russian-speakers in Tallinn hundreds of thousands of Russians, without having been urged by anyone, got involved in cyber attacks against Estonian websites. A year later, we witnessed another result of this policy in Georgia. That time, as the Russian tanks were rolling towards the neighbouring country, not only Vladimir Putin, but also millions of Russians, overcome by chauvinistic orgasm, were demanding to hang Mikhail Saakashvili “by his balls.”
If the Kremlin started some sort of a political or economic pressure campaign against Lithuania, the support from Russian citizens would be just as enthusiastic.
Source BBC Monitoring
According to the latest official results Ms Dalia Grybauskaite has won the elections for the Lithuania’s presidential post. Some 69.08% voted for the EU Commissioner, the biggest ever support for a presidential candidate. 51.71% of all voters executed their constitutional right. Those are preliminary results announced at 1200. The final announcement should come on Sunday.
Butkevicius got 11.83%, Mazuronis 6.16%, Tomasevski 4.74%, Prunskiene 3.91%, Grauziniene 3.61%, Jezerskas 0.67% .
President Adamkus, the Speaker of the Parliament Valinskas and the PM Kubilius all congratulated the President in waiting. It is still unclear who is going to work in Grybauskaite’s team. A lecture of the Vilnius University Institute of International Affairs and Political Science Mr V. Dumbliauskas stated to the Lietuvos Rytas paper that the members of her team are going to be fresh and young people without any political baggage. He mentioned that four of his former students are invited in the team.
Another lecture from the same university Mr Janeliunas mentioned to the BNS that Grybauskaite’s entry into office would undoubtedly bring changes in terms of foreign policy. Janeliunas told to the BNS that some attention from Eastern European countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova will be shifted to European Union’s (EU) heavyweights, which in his words will be one of the pivotal changes. “She would look to Western European capitals for backing and then assess the feasibility of European integration among other quests. (…) Directions would shift in line with long-term priorities,” he said to the BNS on early Monday morning.
The BNS agency also quoted Director at the Centre for Eastern Geopolitical Studies Kasciunas who maintained a similar opinion. “There are signs that point to Lithuania’s increased attention to deeper EU integration rather than full-fledged EU expansion to the East,” Kasciunas told BNS.
The BNS wrote that the political expert felt that Lithuania’s shift in this particular direction could result in the country adopting a more agreeable stance on Russia in line with the popularity of this trend in Western Europe. It is impossible to provision the benefits or lack thereof implicit in this change, said Kasciunas, noting that more thorough EU integration would undoubtedly be beneficial to the country in terms of energy, however cautioning that integration to EU’s military structures could be more detrimental.
However, these are only predictions and assumptions based on Grybauskaites statements. However, these questions were not really answered during the election campaign. Hence, the predictions above remain only such.
As the BNS writes the Lithuanian President Adamkus was critical of US President Obama’s speech delivered in Prague for its lack of novelty. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Usackas, on the other hand, said the speech was substantial, even if Obama didn’t specifically address the security of Lithuania and the Baltic States.
According to the BNS speaking to members of the press following the European Union (EU) – US summit the Lithuanian president said he’d heard various feedback on the speech, but felt openly critical himself.
“I expected more from the president’s speech as it was advertised and presented as one of America’s prime foreign policy speeches in Europe. I heard nothing in that speech of any new benchmarks or a complete makeover in America’s policy. (…) So in that sense, I feel differently than those who were blindly in awe, almost dizzy with the novelty of the information. I can appreciate the president’s speech, points were made, but personally, as one who follows foreign policy, I heard nothing new,” Adamkus spoke.
Obama did state the necessary, i.e. that the Americans will not succumb to principles, that it is necessary to hold talks with Russia and continue dialogue – one that is reciprocal, said Adamkus, however noting that the US president’s other statements had already been voiced.
Meanwhile, BNS continues Usackas found Obama’s speech consequential, even if it contained no specific provisions on the security of Lithuania and the Baltic countries. The US Head of State in his Prague’s speech reiterated Europe as being US’ closest partner, noted Usackas.
“Obama’s speech was general in nature, it contained key provisions on disarming and EU and NATO solidarity. I believe this speech to be an important step towards disarming and maintaining the EU-US partnership,” said the Lithuanian foreign minister.
Usackas was elated by thoughts in the US president’s speech, such as that all NATO states must have defense plans for new challenges ahead and that NATO’s security is undivided.
“What was very important, both in Obama’s speech in Prague and the NATO summit, was the notion that all members of the Alliance should share the same level of security,” said Usackas.
Usackas noted to the BNS that the United States in the EU-US summit in Prague voiced support to the EU Eastern Partnership Initiative – a new stage in relations binding the EU and six Eastern European countries from Belarus to Georgia.
Lithuania PM – Eastern Europe needs coordinated EU help. Dark clouds of crisis over the Baltic States and some rays of optimism
Economical gloom is reigning in the Baltics. The SEB bank has released a traditional forecast for the Baltic economies. According to the report the Batics are in the long and painful recession. However, Lithuania looks much better against its other Baltic brothers.
In its latest Nordic Outlook report, SEB forecasts that Lithuania’s economy will contract by 5.5 percent this year and 3 percent next year. If you think this is bad read further. Estonia’s GDP will plunge by 10 percent and 2.3 percent and Latvia’s economy will slide by 9.5 and 3 percent, respectively.
Lithuania’s average annual inflation rate is expected to ease to 5 percent this year, down from 11.1 percent last year, and decelerate further to 4 percent in 2010. Inflation in Latvia should reach 4.8 percent this year before falling to 0.5 percent next year. Inflation in Estonia will be 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.
During his visit to Sweden Lithuania’s Prime Minister Kubilius once against called for the EU countries to look at the problems in Eastern parts of the EU more seriously. In his interview to the FT he stated “It would be good to see a more coordinated approach from the EU authorities. We are all suffering in a similar way from the credit crunch and the recession.”
In this interview Kubilius also expressed his worries about the situation in Ukraine and Russia. “We are worried about what can happen in Ukraine and Russia. The collapse of one of these big markets would have a very negative impact on the whole region.”
Kubilius said Baltic companies were complaining that foreign banks were tightening lending conditions, preventing them getting credits to pursue export opportunities. “Sometimes we would like to see a more positive attitude, especially when business is not in a bad shape,” he said.
In the same interview Kubilius noted that the Baltic States were in an especially difficult position because, to defend their fixed exchange rates, they had to tighten rather than loosen fiscal policy and their exports had become less competitive compared to countries with depreciating currencies.
However, Lithuania did not yet need to follow neighbouring Latvia and seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kubilius noted. “We don’t have any real need for IMF lending,” Kubilius assured. “We are controlling our budget deficit and we don’t have any real problems at the moment with local banks.”
However, Kubilius said this could be counter-productive: “There is a stigma [in seeking IMF help] that we want to avoid,” he said. “We can still borrow from private sources and we hope that in the second half of the year there will be a more positive international market.”
Nevertheless, Kestutis Glaveckas, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee, has mentioned that Lithuania may have to turn to the IMF for financial support to stimulate the economy.
The MP noted to the BNS on Feb 18 “The financial instruments and powers that we have and are waiting for from the EU can be insufficient in the next six months and we may have to look for other financing sources. Seeking [financial support] from the IMF is not ruled out”.
However, even in the such grim environment the Lithuanian Economy Minister Dainius Kreivys still keeps his upbeat spirit and expects that either Google.com or Amazon.com will “sooner or later” begin to develop operations in Lithuania.
As he the BNS wrote, “It’s a question of time. I believe that sooner or later we’ll attract either Google.com or Amazon.com,” Kreivys told members of the parliament’s Economics Committee on Feb 18.
The BNS informed that the minister said that he was personally in talks with Sweden’s furniture group Ikea, Norway’s aluminium manufacturer Elkem and Google.com over investment in Lithuania.
As the BNS states Elkem considered investing about 800 million litas (EUR 232 mln) in building a factory in the port of Klaipeda or in the central Lithuanian town of Kedainiai. The company discussed those plans with the then Prime Minister, Gediminas Kirkilas.
Google was interested in the possibility of establishing a data centre in Lithuania. Ikea, which bought the chipboard and furniture factory Giriu Bizonas for more than 100 million litas last December, mulled building a new fibreboard and cellular furniture factory in Lithuania.
I would like to present you with the editorial from the largest Lithuania’s daily Lietuvos Rytas August 28. If anyone would like to accuse the daily of Russo phobia I would like to remind you that this article appeared before the Finish foreign minister expressed his wish for Finland to join NATO. The Swedes are also opened a discussion on further strengthening their relationship with this military alliance. Could you accuse Finland and in this case Sweden of unfounded phobias? Here we go…
The images of Russian tanks rolling through Lithuania are a thing of the past. Fifteen years ago, on 31 August, the last Russian soldier left Lithuania.
It seemed like the occupation army would stay in the depths of history forever. Yet, in the beginning of August of this year, Russian tanks stormed into Georgia and resurrected those images. It seems like it was harder to believe the Russians would leave 15 years ago than it is to believe they could comeback today.
A month ago such statements would have sounded like paranoia. Lithuania joined NATO four years ago, and we firmly believed we would always be safe from Russian storms under the NATO umbrella.
The only time the clear sky of Lithuanian optimism soured was in 2005, when a Russian jet SU-27 crashed in Lithuania, and Air Force Chief Jonas Marcinkus suspiciously flirted with Russian officers who came to investigate the incident.
The Russian aggression against Georgia has forced even the biggest optimists to stop and think. Even though Georgia is not a NATO member, its ties to the alliance and the US sort of said Tbilisi would be safe.
The Russians, who needed merely a few days to occupy Gori, Poti, and other Georgian cities and who burned and robbed those cities, showed they could not care less about NATO. Even the US was only able to condemn, urge, and express regret.
True, some tend to diminish the Kremlin’s war against Georgia by saying one should not make any conclusions about Russia’s intentions, because the seeds of the conflict in the region had been sown a long time ago and there was no other solution.
Yet, now we have heard this question: Who can be Russia’s next victim, which unscrupulously “defends” the interests of its citizens abroad, – Moldova, Ukraine, or the Baltic states?
It is possible the fear may be exaggerated, but a precedent has been created. After all, Hitler did not attack Poland right away. At first he had examined the West’s reaction with the Austrian Anschluss, the Czechoslovakian occupation, starting in the Sudetes.
Russia already recognized South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s “independence” and entrenched the aggression’s consequences, and we know that one’s appetite grows as one is swallowing foreign lands.
International law expert Dainius Zalimas said Russia’s growing political, economic, and military pressure was a threat to Lithuania’s security. He also said Lithuania ought to re-examine its national security strategy.
Only the Conservatives [TS-LKD] and the Social Democrats [LSDP] reacted to the Russian aggression. Meanwhile, in August (what a coincidence!) 31 MPs launched an attack against the country’s NATO membership [the Constitutional Court was asked to explain whether presence of NATO troops in Lithuania would be constitutional].
Our neighbours got rid of the false sense of security already. In Latvia, they immediately called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the national security strategy.
The Latvian media announced that NATO started preparing a defence plan for the Baltic states. NATO has not confirmed this.
Yet, here is what became clear: The alliance still does not have such a defence plan. Not the best news, when one is hearing reports from Georgia, where the Russian Army is digging more and more trenches.
Fred Kagan, an influential American military analyst, admitted that “NATO contributed very little to the development of the Baltic states.”
Kagan urged NATO to increase security of the Baltic states, because Moscow could be tempted to attack them: “I think Russia has plans regarding the Baltic states and has created a precedent in Georgia, thinking it could use force to defend the Russian minority abroad.”
According to the analyst, only more serious work by NATO would reduce Russia’s desire to attack Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. For example, deploying antimissile and antitank systems.
We continue repeating the fifth article of the NATO treaty, as if it was a mantra: “An armed attack against one or more of the members in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, and other members will take action that they deem necessary, including the use of armed force.”
Does this mean, however, that NATO allies will send their divisions to defend Vilnius? Who could answer this question with a firm “yes” now?
As Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski accurately noted, “documents and agreements are good, of course, but Poland’s history is full of examples of situations in which Poland was forced to fight alone, because allies had abandoned us.” After Russia attacked Georgia, Warsaw immediately agreed to deploy US missiles-destroyers in its territory.
There is nothing similar in Lithuania. It is also hard to say how determined is NATO to change its position on Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Tallinn and Vilnius on 26 August, also realized that Western Europe’s reserved stance in the face of the Russian aggression worries the Baltic states. In Tallinn, the chancellor tried to be consoling by saying NATO would defend Estonia, and it would not be “formal defence.”
Sikorski’s statement, however, is not a mere metaphor; therefore, strategists of Lithuania’s defence policy should not rely merely on agreements and a few NATO jets in Zokniai [airport].
The relative peace we enjoyed for fifteen years after the occupants’ departure has ended. Today, as the Kremlin is showing its growing imperial fangs, we need much more to ensure the country’s security. The government, military officials, and diplomats are responsible for determining what concrete steps must be taken.
Source: BBC Monitoring