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2022.01.14 08:00

LRT English Newsletter: In hot water during a cold winter

Benas Gerdžiūnas, Justinas Šuliokas, LRT.lt2022.01.14 08:00

LRT English Newsletter – January 14, 2022.

On Thursday, the country marked its Freedom Defenders’ Day, commemorating the 14 people killed and hundreds injured when Soviet forces attempted to overthrow the Lithuanian government that had declared independence from the USSR in March 1990.

Here are some stories from the archives of LRT (and LRT English) – an audiovisual piece, as well as a selection of pictures (including this personal favourite) submitted by people from across Lithuania. And do take an audio tour of the landmark locations. Find a selection of more historical stories here.

This year, however, the usual commemorations saw loud booing and heckles from the crowd of protesters who rallied against Covid restrictions and called on the government (and the parliament) to resign. One video summarises the atmosphere pretty well.

According to Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, independence meant the freedom to express opposition in such a way. Other current, and former, leaders were less reserved, with Vytautas Landsbergis – the head of Lithuania’s reform movement that fought for independence – calling the protesters “Yedinstvo”, the pro-Soviet, mostly Russian organisation of the early 90s. At the time, however, ethnic minorities in the country did rally for independence (read an important primer here).

In 1991, it also wasn’t only people from Lithuania that stood at the barricades – read the remarkable story of Yevgeny Dikiy who travelled from Ukraine to join the fight.

One case involving a Ukrainian citizen, however, is proving a headache. One of those sentenced for war crimes and crimes against humanity that night is a Ukrainian national who also fought against Russian-led separatists in the Donbass. He is now in Greece, fighting extradition to Lithuania.

HEATING BILLS

Have you gotten yours yet? Those who did, in Vilnius at least, have been fuming.“I knew I would have to pay more, but not this much. I was shocked because I will have to spend 20 percent of my salary on heating alone,” Dalia, one resident, said.

THE RONA IS BACK

Covid is back with vengeance on the back of the Omicron variant. This week, Lithuania registered its highest daily case count since the beginning of the pandemic.

There have also been some changes to the Covid certificates – they are no longer required for teenagers, while an antibody test will no longer suffice to extend the pass.

ALL EYES ON RUSSIA

This week marked a flurry of diplomatic activity amid what is seen as sabre rattling by Russia. Here’s a quick recount of the updates:
– The US has “publicly and privately” told Russia that, should it further invade Ukraine, NATO would reinforce its eastern flank, said US Ambassador to Lithuania Robert S Gilchrist.
– The talks between NATO and Russia went better than expected, said Lithuania’s ambassador to the alliance, Deividas Matulionis.
– The Baltic states are talking to NATO allies about increasing military deployments on their soil to deter Russia,
– Eyeing Russia, the Lithuanian State Defence Council decided on Monday that the country should buy multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) earlier than planned.
– Denmark will send additional forces to the Baltics.
– Lithuania has also upped the readiness of its troops to “prepare for the worst”.

CHINA’S EYES ON LITHUANIA

Here’s another round of quick updates from another, key international development surrounding Lithuania – Taiwan and China. Following coercive economic measures from Beijing (all officially unannounced), Taipei has promised a 1-billion-dollar loan fund, with a potential to expand Taiwan’s crucial microchip manufacturing to Lithuania. Meanwhile, Lithuania and Germany seem to be coordinating actions against China’s pressure, with Vilnius officials hoping Berlin will join France’s push to come up with an anti-coercion measure. But, with the dust settling, it seems Lithuania had failed to anticipate certain actions from Beijing, the deputy foreing minister has admitted. A recent poll commissioned by the Foreign Ministry has also revealed that most Lithuanians are critical of the government’s China policy.

EDITOR’S PICKS

– Houses in the typically flood-hit areas of Lithuania are facing waist-high waters, again.

– The new party of Saulius Skvernelis, Lithuania’s former prime minister, is now polling third.

– The parliament has a new foreign affairs committee chair.

– As Lithuania moves toward introducing universal conscription, should women be also called up?

– Marking another stage in the Belaruskali saga, the Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday that the state-owned railway company must terminate its contract with Belarus' potash giant, because it clashes with national security interests.

– In case you missed it, the alleged CIA black site in Lithuania just went up on sale.

– Lithuania has recorded the largest growth in industrial production in the eurozone.

– But despite the growth in wages, another ballooning economic indicator alongside inflation, incomes remain among the lowest in the EU.

– The high prices and low incomes are also puzzling expats in the country, who are posing some rather existential questions.

– Another existential question, it seems, is whether Vilnius should rebuild the destroyed Upper Castle.

– In October last year, children living with their families in Migrant Registration Centres started their first academic year in Lithuania. How is their curriculum progressing?

Would you like to contribute to LRT English? Please send your suggestions, submissions, and pitches to english@lrt.lt

Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas
Edited by Justinas Šuliokas

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