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2021.05.11 09:28

Khodorkovsky report singles out Kremlin links to Lithuanian aviation company

Milena Andrukaitytė, BNS2021.05.11 09:28

Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky mentioned Avia Solutions Group (ASG), an aviation business group controlled by Lithuanian businessman Gediminas Ziemelis, and Algirdas Paleckis, a former Lithuanian politician charged with spying for Russia, in his report to a special European Parliament committee on Monday.

In the part of the report that concerned Lithuania, Khodorkovsky highlighted two points: about Avia Solutions Group and Paleckis.

The former president of Yukos Oil Company told EU's special committee on disinformation and foreign interference in democratic processes that he was presenting information collected by journalists from the Dossier Center and that it “is not intended for publication without additional verification”.

“The Dossier is a journalistic project that receives information from volunteers and checks it as much as it can,” he said. “The information cannot be corroborated in court, because the informants fear for their lives and the lives of their families.”

“It shouldn't be published without verification and we don’t claim that we have presented all the information.”

Khodorkovsky said that ASG had been mentioned in the media due to its possible links to Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

The Kremlin critic noted that the company denies such links and that it employs Vygaudas Ušackas, a former foreign minister of Lithuania.

According to Khodorkovsky, “for reasons unknown to us, the Kremlin's political technologists named [Ušackas] as a friendly candidate for Lithuanian presidency”.

Darius Jauniškis, director of the Lithuanian State Security Department, has confirmed that the intelligence agency has information that raises doubts about ASG's operations and its reliability.

In late March, the Lithuanian government blocked ASG's expansion plans in Vilnius Airport over national security concerns. The 15min.lt news site has reported that the group appealed the decision to a court in late April.

Speaking about Paleckis, Khodorkovsky noted that the former politician was charged in a criminal case with “collaboration with Russia's special services” and that he had been “in contact with pro-Kremlin agents at least since 2010”.

“In our opinion, he continues to do so even though he is a defendant in a criminal case,” Khodorkovsky said.

Paleckis and Deimantas Bertauskas, a Vilnius-based businessman, are standing trial on charges of spying for a foreign country in an organised group. While the latter admits his guilt, Paleckis denies any wrongdoing, saying he was conducting a journalistic investigation.

Šiauliai Regional Court has completed the examination of evidence in the case and adjourned to give time for trial participants to prepare their closing arguments.

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