Politics and foreign affairs
The trials against suspected Nazi war criminals Aleksandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas began in Vilnius this past week. However, in both cases new medical and mental fitness tests were ordered. The test results are due back in mid-May. Attorneys for both defendants argue that even a trial in absentia with the help of monitors could be lethal to the nonagenarians.
However, the highest-profile trial in Lithuania is that of the accused killers of priest Ričardas Mikutavičius. Three of the defendants have confessed to killing the priest, though they blame a fourth defendant for masterminding the murder and theft of the priest's huge art collection, which is valued at LTL (Lithuanian Litas) 5.1 million. This case was, and continues to be, an embarrassment to officials. The priest was declared missing for many months, though later officials admitted that a body of an unidentified man, who had already been buried, turned out to be Mikutavičius.
The government rejected the publicly-supported bill to divert LTL 148 million from defence to education spending. The bill was launched by popular initiative under the direction of the New Alliance (Social Liberals) and its leader Artūras Paulauskas. Paulauskas said after the decision that he hopes the Seimas, which still has to deliberate the bill, would respect the voice of the people. Over 100,000 individuals signed the petition during the signature drive for the bill.
Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis visited Ukraine, amidst a row over free trade and plastics. Landsbergis met with President Leonid Kuchma, Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, Verkhovna Rada Chairman Ivan Plyushch and Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk.
Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas travelled to New York to take part in the UN non-proliferation conference. In the US, Saudargas also met with US National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and others.
The United Arab Emirates declared Lithuania's consul, Gvidas Kerušauskas, persona non grata. Foreign Minister Saudargas confirmed the recall but declined to give reasons. The press is attributing it to the consul's public inebriation in the Muslim state.
Heads of the civil guards in the Baltic states met in southern Estonia, on the invitation of Kaitseliit head Benno Leesik. Along with Arvydas Počius, head of Lithuania's KASP and Jānis Kononovs, chief of Latvia's Zemessardze, the civil guard chiefs discussed further co-operation. The three also visited several training sites and inspected an ongoing training exercise.
Joint control over the Lithuanian-Latvian border point at Rucava-Butingė will commence in July. This will simplify border crossing and cut out the double stoppage for those travellers on the road.
Economics and business
The government announced the timetable for the privatisation of the Lithuanian Shipping Company (LISCO). Bids for the shipping fleet company are due by mid-June, as the state plans to sell about 75 per cent of all shares for LTL 400 million. The government plans to hold just under five per cent of the shares for now, though it will keep the "golden share" in its hands. The privatisation for this shipping fleet, much like that in Latvia, has faltered several times due to internal spats about conditions.
The Finance Ministry announced that total state debt grew by 0.2 per cent in March, to LTL 13.181 billion. Analysts calculate this to be nearly 30 per cent of this year's expected GDP.
Coca Cola purchased the remaining stakes in the bottling plant in Alytus, in exchange for a favourable sugar import scheme. Now Coca Cola can import a larger amount of refined sugar with no duties. The transaction was about LTL 3.5 million.
Social and local interest
The government changed the rules for foreigners working in Lithuania, now requiring only the foreigner to seek the approval permits. Employers no longer need a licence to employ a foreigner.
A conference on the after-effects of the Chornobyl accident 14 years ago was held in Vilnius, as an estimated 7000 Lithuanians were involved in the clean-up effort.
President Valdas Adamkus signed a new amnesty bill, which would release all female, juvenile, senior and handicapped prisoners serving sentences under five years. The amnesty also frees some petty criminals and shortens the sentences of other criminals.
And in other news...
The 20,000 or so Lithuanians living in the Kaliningrad exclave of Russia have begun organising cultural autonomy for themselves, with a founding conference this past week.
As of 28 April 2000
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||6.28|
|1 German mark||1.86|
Mel Huang, 28 April 2000