News2019.04.17 17:12

Prime minister defends Lithuania's ambassador to Moscow

The foreign minister has yet to make a decision about whether to dismiss Lithuania's ambassador to Russia. Remigijus Motuzas has been recalled from Moscow for consultations after being questioned in an influence peddling investigation.

Meanwhile Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday that he saw no reason to dismiss Motuzas, who has been questioned as a special witness in an investigation into non-transparent visa issuance.

Motuzas was recalled to Vilnius for consultations last week. The decision will be reviewed this week.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has said he is reviewing evidence and refused to disclose the options he is considering.

“Let the prosecutors, the Special Investigation Service, do the investigation. We are ready to cooperate and would like to get answers as soon as possible,” Linkevičius has told LRT.

The special witness status means that a person is questioned about their actions, but there are no grounds to bring formal suspicions against them.

Formal suspicions of influence peddling have been brought against Rimantas Šidlauskas, a former long-standing Lithuanian diplomat, Rinat Nasirov, a Russian banker, and Albinas Bieliauskas, a Lithuanian businessman.

Šidlauskas, who was the head of a business association, is suspected of taking a bribe in exchange for his promise to help Nasirov obtain a long-term Schengen visa.

The Lithuanian embassy in Moscow issued Schengen visas to Nasirov and his son in late March, based on an invitation letter from by Šidlauskas.

The ambassador has confirmed that he and Šidlauskas had a phone conversation about the document.

Meanwhile the opposition in the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas, has called for clarification about whether it is usual for business representatives to discuss visa applications with diplomatic staff.

Prime Minister Skvernelis has said he sees no reason to dismiss Motuzas.

“The status [of special witness] does not preclude him from representing our country in Moscow. Moreover, given the procedures, the ambassador's role or influence in issuing visas is very symbolic and minimal,” the prime minister told reporters.

“Today I see no formal reason preventing the ambassador to Russia from continuing his work," he added.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė said last week that Motuzas was vulnerable and cast a shadow on the diplomatic service as a whole.

Motuzas has served as Lithuania's ambassador to Russia since 2015.

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