Posts filed under ‘Russia’
The TV station Russia Today reported on the alleged location of a CIA prison on a former Soviet military base in Rudninkai, 40 kilometres from Vilnius. Lithuanian daily Vilniaus Diena in its editorial on 27 August voiced its suspicions regarding the report.
The news about the exceptional attention paid to the godforsaken Rudninkai by the most powerful spy agency of the most powerful country on the planet, just as the hypothesis about the CIA prison in Lithuania, surprised our country’s leaders, who may have ruled the country without even knowing what was happening here.
The surprise that was showed by the then Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and the then President Valdas Adamkus might seem somewhat fake – theoretically at least one of them (most likely the latter) must have known about the existence of such a secret site.
On the other hand, considering the trust among NATO allies, one cannot rule out the possibility that the prison was simply marked as secret object XY, and the president did not even need to know what was behind those letters. It is even more likely that the very secret information about this very secret object did not go beyond the walls of Lithuania’s special services and was available only to the persons of those services who belong to the so called statesmen clan.
However, in the race who will be the first to find the site of the CIA prison in Lithuania, another question (which has become secondary) is important: Why was this information disclosed only now?
If it is true that the CIA prison was established in our country and if it is true that it happened back in 2001, then this reveals exceptional trust in Lithuania. Since then, the situation has changed a little bit over the years. Lithuania’s relations with the US have not become warmer; there have been essential changes in Washington and Vilnius, however.
In the US, the Guantanamo prison’s political status changed. In Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, who for now demonstrates exceptional attention to Lithuania’s partners on the old continent and clearly wants to boost the front of our country’s allies inside the EU, replaced pro-American President Adamkus.
Both circumstances create quiet favourable conditions for weakening Lithuania’s pro-American positions. Who benefits from increased anti-American moods in Lithuania? This question should be addressed to those who claimed they were the first to “discover” the CIA prison branch in Vilnius region but failed to provide witnesses or strips of prison clothes that would support this version. Without evidence, the appearance of Rudninkai on the map of the world’s most important intelligence agencies seems as plausible as the adventures of the famous 007 agent – James Bond
The BNS writes that Russia shoved Lithuanian carriers out of its transit market for political reasons, Lithuanian Parliamentary Speaker Arunas Valinskas said on Wednesday.
The parliamentary speaker based this conclusion on political events of July and August, namely the resolution to equate Nazi and Stalinist crimes adopted in the Organization for Security and Cooperation Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) Vilnius session – met with ardent criticism by the Russian Duma – and Lithuania’s decision to decline entry to renowned pro-Russian propagandist Modest Kolerov.
“We can draw inferences ourselves, I believe, and think you would back me on this, that it was a political decision to oust Lithuanian carriers from the Russian transit market,” Valinskas on Wednesday said on news radio.
The Seimas speaker feels this can be concluded also from Russia’s statements denying a possibly political tone of the decision.
“Sound reasoning would lead to a conclusion that this was a political decision on Russia’s part, which is indicated in Russia’s repeated argument – just don’t go thinking that this is a political decision, it is economic, of administrative nature, etc. If this is what Russia’s side is saying, then we can be sure almost 100 percent that this was a political decision handed down for implementation to the customs,” Valinskas said.
According to the politician, who leads the controversy-torn National Resurrection Party, the pact reached between Lithuania-Russia customs last week is detrimental to Lithuanian carriers, as the 29 blacklisted hauler companies, which will be subject to tighter customs procedures, carry out approximately 70 percent of Lithuania’s transit to the Russian market.
The parliamentary speaker in an interview to news radio recalled the entire sequence of events that led to Russia’s decision to impose stricter procedures, namely the Lithuania-backed OSCE PA resolution on Nazi and Stalinist crimes adopted on July 03, Russian Duma’s criticizing statement of July 18, Russian customs announcement issued July 23 of impending tighter regulations for Lithuanian carriers, denied entry to Lithuania on July 30 for Kremlin-linked portal’s regnum.ru Editor-in-Chief Kolerov and the queues of Lithuanian carriers that started accumulating on the Latvia-Russia border on August 04.
As the BNS informes the former militiaman of Riga’s Special Purpose Police Squad (OMON) under the Soviet Union’s Interior Ministry will remain in custody in Lithuania until the end of October on suspicions of playing a part in the Medininkai checkpoint massacre.
Sigita Vainauskaite, a Vilnius Regional Court judge, made this ruling on July 27.
This ruling can be appealed to Lithuania’s Court of Appeals.
The decision to extend by three months Mikhailov’s custody term was requested by prosecutor Rolandas Stankevicius, who argued that the accused, who may have committed a felony, is well connected abroad, especially in Russia, and can be expected to try escaping justice.
The judge in Monday’s session also dismissed the former OMON hitman’s request that she resigns from the case over claims of her illegitimate actions.
Vainauskiene ruled that Mikhailov’s accusations have already been covered and answered in previous court hearings.
The defendant felt Vainauskiene shouldn’t be on the panel of judges hearing his case, because of her repeated rulings against his release regardless of protracted court proceedings, which Mikhailov’s defence argues as being overdue. He moreover argued that the judge gave an interview to a journalist working for an Internet news portal before making her ruling and thus violating rules of confidentiality.
Vainauskiene earlier ruled on April 28 to extend Mikhailov’s term of custody for three months. The court then also refused to dismiss the case on the grounds of prescription and release Mikhailov, a decision that was appealed, but also dismissed by the Court of Appeals.
This hasn’t been the first attempt to remove this judge from hearing the Medininkai case. Mikahilov in the end of June tried and failed to get Vainauskiene and Viktoras Dovidaitis removed from the panel of judges.
Charges have been brought against Mikhailov for partaking on July 31 of 1991 in the killing of Lithuanian officers on duty in the Medininkai border control post.
Mikhailov, 40-year-old citizen of Latvia, has for a long time been the only suspect in the said case to be officially charged with suspicion of having partaken in the murder of seven Lithuanian officers. Lithuanian prosecutors in early April also confirmed that official charges have been brought against Alexander Ryzhov who had been in custody in Russia.
Prosecutors say that an investigation with regard to other suspects, also former OMON members – unit chief Cheslav Mlynik and militiamen Andrey Laktyonov and Ryzhov – have been separated and are in process.
On the morning of July 31 1991, Soviet militiamen murdered border guards Antanas Musteikis, Stanislovas Orlavicius, Aras SWAT unit officers Algimantas Juozakas and Mindaugas Balavakas, road police employees Juozas Janonis and Algirdas Kazlauskas with shots to the head.
Police officer Ricardas Rabavicius, who experienced heavy injuries during the attack, died in the hospital Aug. 2. The sole officer who survived the attack was Tomas Sernas, who also experienced heavy injuries at the time of the attack.
Evidence accumulated during the pre-trial investigation leads prosecution to suspect Soviet Union OMON hitmen as being responsible for the crime.
I would like to offer you an interview of Lithuania’s newly sworn President Dalia Grybauskaite. The interview was published in the Lithuanian business daily Verslo žinios on July 13. Verslo žinios names this interview as a Grybauskaite’s vision for her presidency. I would highly recommend you to read it.
“Encompassing Ideals of Gandhi, Toughness of Churchill”
[Verslo žinios] Should the state limit its functions in a time of crisis or should it control the economy more?
[Grybauskaite] I think during an economic boom the state should limit its functions, and during a downturn it should be more active. I think history confirms this. Today we see that certain financial services were being developed faster than certain governments had predicted or anticipated. The Breton Woods safeguards and other mechanisms that had existed did not stop the crisis. It is necessary to look for something new. In the near future, governments will have to be more actively-involved in the markets. International organizations will have to get involved and participate in regulation as well.
[Verslo žinios] How do you imagine intervention?
[Grybauskaite] Theoretically, the free market system is a very good idea. In the global world, however, we witnessed the creation of global monopoly, not free market. Especially in the area of finances and financial instruments. This monopolistic system started controlling the global economy and market mechanisms. The free market system mutated. Governments and international organizations should create new mechanisms that would revive competition.
[Verslo žinios] What needs to be done?
[Grybauskaite] In the world there is a very interesting discussion: What can be done by big countries, which can fire up their money printing machines, and what can be done by small countries, which do not have resources or money printing machines. I think countries like Lithuania cannot increase public spending, deficit, and debt. Above all, they must reduce public spending and government apparatus and must eliminate overlapping functions of various institutes as well as obstacles for businesses. In addition, such countries must save. Small countries, which do not have resources and money printing machines, have only these options in addition to structural reforms. [passage omitted: The Baltic states should start recovering approximately six months after Europe’s economic recovery].
[Verslo žinios] What reforms are the most necessary in Lithuania?
[Grybauskaite] Lithuania until now has been partially parasitizing and has been stuck in the old, inefficient economic structure. The economy lacks innovation and the service sector is underdeveloped. Our possibilities are innovation, services, science, and scientific research. Without abundance of natural resources, the biggest wealth one has is people, who must be valued. The problem is this: During the past twenty years we have freed the market and have reduced the state’s involvement in the economy, yet we have not reduced the state’s social obligations. The old style social security system that we have inherited does not go well with the market economy. During an economic crisis, this disproportion becomes an impossible burden for the state.
[Verslo žinios] Does this mean that in the future there will be smaller pensions, social payments, and assignations for education?
[Grybauskaite] I would phrase the problem differently. Society must decide anew what size taxes it is prepared to pay and what services it wants to receive from the state. Between these things there is a direct correlation. If one wants to maintain the same social system, one has to increase taxes. If taxes remain the same, the state’s obligations must decrease. Of course, even the funds the state has today can be used more effectively, too. For example, the latest study of the World Bank shows that our healthcare system looks like this: There are too many hospitals, there is too much equipment that is not used properly, because there are no specialists trained to use that equipment. Money disappears, but there is no impact.
[Verslo žinios] Unlike Latvia, Lithuania has refused to ask the IMF for help. You once said that such a step was unnecessary. Why?
[Grybauskaite] It is the last step a country can take. If external borrowing conditions do not get worse, Lithuania will still able to manage on its own. I do not want to criticize the IMF or the World Bank, but every politician should know that no one will solve our problems for us. I do not want to comment on Latvia’s problems, too much. I think Latvia asked the IMF for assistance when it had no other choice.
[Verslo žinios] The government completely ruled out the litas devaluation scenario and announced it would try to enter the euro zone in 2012 by reducing public spending. Do you support this strategy?
[Grybauskaite] I would not want to discuss concrete dates. However, the euro zone is synonymous with financial discipline. Order in our financial system must be the main paradigm of our thinking, as a real alternative to political populism. Concrete date for joining the euro zone will depend on the extent of the crisis and on our ability to have order. I also do not see any alleged benefits of devaluating the litas. Perhaps it would be meaningful, talking about increasing competitiveness of our exports. However, can you show me any markets that today are not gripped by recession? Therefore, devaluating the litas would only increase the country’s debt, two thirds of which are in foreign currency. In addition, energy resources would become more expensive. Therefore, we should move in the direction of euro adoption.
[Verslo žinios] Do you think Lithuania’s energy dependence on Russia is dangerous?
[Grybauskaite] Every country needs to strive to diversify its energy sources. Energy has always been measured using the geopolitical ruler. Therefore, integrating Lithuania’s electric power system and energy sources into Western networks would mean Lithuania’s political independence. It is necessary, and we will try to make sure we do not depend on one energy supplier.
[Verslo žinios] Does this mean that Lithuania must be prepared to pay higher prices for energy resources in the near future?
[Grybauskaite] Just as for any geopolitical choice. There is a certain price that needs to be paid for geopolitical orientation. Even if a competitive environment is established in Lithuania’s energy system in accordance with the EU requirements, the future of this sector will not be just a matter of economy or business. Of course, it is important to have a competitive environment in the energy market, but above all we must tame local monopolists and defend the consumer’s interests. Today in Lithuania, it is clear that local barriers are built against innovation and development of alternative energy sources.
[Verslo žinios] What is your opinion about the conditions for foreign investments in Lithuania? For example, Russian businessmen complain about discrimination here…
[Grybauskaite] The flow of investments, naturally, has subsided. The boom that started 15 years ago has ended. Yet, for now this is not too painful, because the lack of foreign investments in the country is compensated by the EU aid funds. Of course, we should analyse why the investment conditions have become worse. The Russian investments, meanwhile, are just as important to Lithuania as the investments from other countries. In certain areas non EU investments are limited and European interests are defended. The common EU investment policy is in the interests of Lithuania as well, but there is no national protectionism that would violate European principles.
[Verslo žinios] Have you heard any proposals to distance yourself from the executive branch and to remain a consolidating political figure, the way your predecessor, who was called “moral authority,” was?
[Grybauskaite] Political analysts say this is exactly what I should do. It would be nice to distance myself, point my finger, and criticize. I, however, see myself as someone who is not afraid of responsibility, and the first thing I will accept, if we work together with the cabinet, is responsibility.
[Verslo žinios] Perhaps today it would be meaningful to strictly adhere to the separation of power doctrine?
[Grybauskaite] It is an abstract theory. I know that today the nation entrusted a big credit of trust to me. Therefore, I want to talk about consolidating not only the government but also the public for big tasks. One of the most painful problems is the fact that the political elite have usurped democratic mechanisms. There cannot be a healthy economy, if the citizens’ power to make decisions is limited, and there cannot be a healthy economy without healthy politics. The decreasing interest in politics and lack of civic activeness is a problem not only in Lithuania, but also in Europe.
[Verslo žinios] All of your predecessors sooner or later started complaining about limited powers of the president…
[Grybauskaite] In politics there are de jure and de facto tools. Juridical tools are in the Constitution: The veto right, the right to initiate laws, the power to appoint officials. Factual tools – the nation’s trust, my word, which seems to have had substantial influence so far. Finally, I am also a professional in a certain field, which allows me to offer my help to the cabinet.
[Verslo žinios] Do you agree with those who say that every senior politician achieves the most important things during his first six months in office?
[Grybauskaite] This depends on one’s term in office (smiling)… Perhaps they are right: During the first six months one can look at things objectively, through a set of fresh eyes, before routine and system sucks one in. However, I think I clearly see the main tasks, which I raised not only during the election campaign, but also for myself. I hope that political and economic conditions will not obstruct their implementation.
Source 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.
In 1009 Lithuania’s name (Lituae) was first mentioned in the chronicles of ancient German town Kvedlinburg in reference to the death of missionary St. Bruno.
Lithuania on July 6 is marking its millennial Statehood Day. This small nation, sandwiched between great Germanic and Slavic giants managed to survive against all odds in the world. It experienced its glory days for few centuries with it medieval empire which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Some historian argue that if there was not such an empire there would not have been Belarusian and Ukrainian nations today.
It was carved up, occupied and slaughtered for few centuries to revive again and again. It is a story of a small and great nation which held on to this piece of land next to the Baltic Sea and managed to survive. This is why it is amazing. Lithuania, together with its Baltic sisters managed to survive. Despite of all difficulties at the moment we will rise like phoenix out of ashes. Crisis are coming and going, but such nations are here to stay and prosper.
Celebratory events taking place throughout the day will be attended by Queen of Denmark Margarethe II, King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden.
Other distinguished guests will include President Olafur Ragnar of Iceland, President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, President Tarja Halonen of Finland, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Legate of Pope Benedict XVI and Dean of the College of Cardinals, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia, and Russia’s Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev among others.
Lithuania’s millennial celebration kicked off at noon with a Flag Hoisting Ceremony in Daukanto Square, next to the Office of President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, with a Holy Mass at the Vilnius Cathedral to follow, the president’s press service said in a statement.
The Holy Mass will be followed by a symbolic ceremony marking the opening of a reconstructed Royal Palace of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a farewell to participants of the Millennium Song Festival “Song of the Centuries”, the statement says.
Later in the day the action will move over to the Museum of Applied Arts, where the honorable guests will visit millennial exhibitions on display, namely “Lithuania in Ancient Historical Sources”, “Wawel in Vilnius. From the Jagiellonian Dynasty to the end of the Republic, and “The Art of Balts”, and will attend lunch hosted by President Adamkus.
In the evening, guests will deliver addresses in Lithuania’s Millennial Song Contest, and later attend dinner hosted by Adamkus in the President’s Office.
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