LRT English Newsletter – November 22, 2019
Spies, NATO ties, and Lithuania’s toilet problems
Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas
Edited by Justinas Šuliokas
THE BRIDGE OF SPIES
As silence shrouds the unprecedented spy swap between Lithuania and Russia conducted earlier this month, the Norwegian freed in the exchange didn’t shy away from the spotlight. Frode Berg inadvertently revealed the location of the swap – on the border with Kaliningrad, which may have been on a bridge over the Nemunas River – and also detailed his ordeal in Russia and the road to freedom via Lithuania.
Berg has also revealed he is now writing a book.
Meanwhile, silence on the Lithuanian side, critics say, could be an attempt to hide state failures to provide for the families of the men sentenced in Russia. One of those speaking out is Lithuania’s former prime minister, Algirdas Butkevičius.
HAS ANYONE SEEN NATO?
French President Emmanuel Macron’s words sent tremors across NATO, but also found a recipient in Estonia’s conservative EKRE party. Its chairman and the country’s interior minister, Mart Helme, said in an explosive interview that Estonia was preparing a “plan B” to NATO together with the other Baltic states.
Almost everyone across the Estonian political spectrum condemned his statements, and denied a plan has ever been considered. Helme later said his words were misinterpreted.
ALL QUIET ON THE EASTERN FRONT
Despite NATO’s political bickering, people in the Baltics feel safe, a new survey shows. Lithuania also displayed the highest sense of national security.
MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
A new banking scandal is brewing in the Baltics, as the Swedish public broadcaster is due to release an investigation alleging that SEB bank was involved in money laundering.
Before the news of SEB shares sliding 15 percent could settle, another Swedish bank operating in the Baltic states was hit by yet another scandal – this time, it’s about connections with Russian weapons industry. Documentary by the Swedish public broadcaster, SVT, here.
MORE MONEY, LESS PROBLEMS
Meanwhile, Maxima supermarket chain owner tops Lithuania's rich list with an estimated wealth of €1.1 billion. Nerijus Numavičius, the majority shareholder of Vilniaus Prekyba (VP), now lives in London and is mostly engaged in retail trade and real estate.
THE BROWN NOTE
On the flipside, a tenth of Lithuanians make do without a flush toilet, while only Bulgarians and Romanians have less comforting time alone in the EU.
During the World Toilet Day on November 19, Eurostat revealed that 27.7 percent of the population in Romania, 15.3 percent in Bulgaria, and 10.6 percent in Lithuania, have no access to an indoor flushing toilet.
DUAL CITIZENSHIP IN LITHUANIA
Despite a referendum on dual citizenship failing back in May, head of the Lithuanian World Community Dalia Henke called on the country’s Constitutional Court to change its position.
Almost a million people supported expanding dual citizenship during the referendum, which represents “a strong mandate” for the president, parliament members and the Constitutional Court, she said.
DECADE-OLD CONTROVERSY RETURNS TO LITHUANIA
The saga of Neringa Venckienė, a former member of the Lithuanian parliament and judge recently extradited from the United States, began on October 5, 2009
Venckienė is charged with refusing to obey a court order, resisting a police officer, hindering a bailiff, and hitting Laimutė Stankūnaitė, the mother of her niece. On November 19, Venckienė was released on a 10,000-euro bail. Latest here.
REBURIAL OF 1863 UPRISING PARTICIPANTS
The reburial of 1863 uprising participants is due to take place on November 22, which will see the Polish and Lithuanian presidents attending. Belarus, however, is staying humble by sending Deputy Prime Minister Igor Petrishenko.
The 1863 uprising against Tsarist Russia swept territories across present-day Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. Only recently, some of the participants and leaders of the rebellion in Vilnius were found buried on Gediminas Hill.
On Friday, LRT English will bring you live streams via our Facebook page.
CHINA SUBVERTING MEDIA IN THE BALTICS
China is successfully meddling in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Baltics, by using content-sharing strategies, as well as outright acquisition of outlets that could spread a positive image of Beijing and attack democracy movements in Hong Kong.
In Lithuania, Chinese ambassador’s highly ideologically-flavoured op-eds were published in several print outlets, a strategy that was repeated across Eastern and Central Europe.
Here are some weekend reads you may have missed:
As Baltic refugees moved West, they brought along their institutions – including, the Baltic University.
Justė Jocytė is turning 14 this month, but she is already being crowned the supertalent of Lithuanian basketball. She recently scored her first points playing for the women’s national basketball team.