LRT English Newsletter – September 11, 2020.
It’s the time of the year when many Lithuanians engage in their national pastime – mushroom picking. Despite a rather dry summer, it appears to be the best season in years, especially for those after penny buns, the most valuable mushroom species growing in Lithuania.
Whether you like mushroom picking or not, spending time in the forest is healthier than, say, smoking a hookah. Last week, a party of nine friends who shared a pipe all got infected with the coronavirus.
THE KIDS ARE NOT ALRIGHT
Lithuania is among the worst countries in Europe for children’s well-being, according to a research by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). With the third-highest children suicide rate, Lithuania's UNICEF representative has called the situation a “national crisis”.
Emotional helplines also say that Lithuanian youngsters are suffering from emotional strain and often talk about suicide.
PUPPIES IN DISTRESS
This week, animal mistreatment by unlicensed breeders caused a social media storm in Lithuania. A lost West Highland Terrier helped uncover an illegal dog breeding operation where animals were kept in appalling conditions. Their photos went viral and prompted groups of volunteers to raid suspected illegal breeding kennels and free abused dogs and cats.
Feeling the pressure, Lithuania’s animal welfare authorities launched a dozen investigations into unlicensed breeding operations.
BACK TO SCHOOL DURING PANDEMIC
During the first week of the academic year, over a dozen schoolchildren were diagnosed with Covid-19, leading to over 300 of their peers and teachers getting quarantined in 21 schools across the country.
The situation is under control, a public health official reassured, and none of the children had been infected at school. The government isn’t planning to make entire schools switch to remote teaching if some students test positive for the coronavirus, according to officials.
HUAWEI ON NATIONAL TEAM’S T-SHIRTS
The Lithuanian Basketball Federation signed a sponsorship deal with the Chinese tech giant Huawei, to the resentment of some. Putting the logo of the controversial firm – linked to alleged espionage and human rights abuses – on the national team’s T-shirts may be unwise, according to observers who criticised the deal.
Have you heard the new track Lithuania by Big Sean and Travis Scott? For some reason, the American hip-hop duo picked the country’s name for their new song which has nothing to do with Lithuania. Random.
SELF-QUARANTINE MAY BE SHORTENED
Next week, travelers coming to Lithuania from most coronavirus-affected countries in Europe will have to self-isolate for 10 days rather than 14, government officials have indicated.
As Lithuania’s own infection rate rises – the country’s citizens and residents came very close to being barred from traveling even to Latvia – the government says it supports the EC’s move to unify travel rules across the EU, which would somewhat ease the current restrictions.
PROBE INTO COVID-19 TEST DEAL CLOSES IN ON PM
Lithuania’s financial crime investigators continue their probe into the government’s 6-million-euro purchase of rapid coronavirus tests last March. It emerged this week that two key members of the prime minister’s team were questioned as “special witnesses” – meaning that they themselves are under investigation.
LRT Investigation Team previously reported that the deal may have unduly favoured a local firm which sold the tests at inflated prices – and the pressure to sign the deal came from the PM’s team.
FIRST WIN IN FOUR YEARS
It had been four years since Lithuania’s national football team celebrated a victory – until last Monday, that is, when it snatched a surprise win against Albania.
The Lithuanian ambassador in Minsk joined other diplomats who rushed to the apartment of Svetlana Alexievich on Wednesday after security forces started knocking at the door of the Nobel Prize laureate.
Alexievich is part of the Belarusian opposition’s Coordination Council and the only member of its presidium who has not been arrested or exiled.
Meanwhile Lithuania’s leaders – the foreign minister and the president – have spoken to international media, expressing slight impatience with the EU being slow to impose sanctions on the regime and Lukashenko himself.
NATO DRILLS AMID TENSIONS
As regional powers focus on unrest in Belarus, an armoured US battalion arrived in Lithuania for pre-planned military exercises. The Kremlin was quick to accuse NATO of hostility and promised a “well considered” response.
Lithuanian and NATO officials have repeatedly assured that there are no unplanned troop movements, as all military exercises have been planned in advance and are not connected to the events in Belarus.
Lithuania’s second city is finalising the bid to have its modernist architecture included into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The final decision is expected in 2022
– How much does it cost to be a student in Lithuania? There are tuition fees, food and rent, not to mention going out, which is an essential part of student life.
– One of the first volunteers to sign up for Lithuania’s fledgling army in 1919 was a man from Qingdao, China. How did he end up in Lithuania and why did he join the fight for its independence?
– The Sports and Concert Palace in Vilnius is more than a brick-and-concrete building. A Brazilian architect speaks about untangling the Soviet monument’s layers of memory, trauma and competing interests.
– If Russia were to incorporate Belarus into its military structure, as has been Moscow's wish for decades, what would be the implications for Lithuania's security?
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Written by Justinas Šuliokas
Edited by Benas Gerdžiūnas