A parliamentary sitting held Thursday, 27 October, by Lithuania’s opposition parties on the sacking of the former Public Police Security Service (PSS) Commander, General Ricard Pocius by the Conservative Interior Minister, Agne Bilotaitė, was hot. The minister and the opposition traded insults and the queries of some MPs sounded long harangues and tantrums.
Bilotaitė accused the ex-PSS commander of being absent from work, lying, and not attending meetings held by the ministry, adding that he could not be contacted, although he had to be available at all times during a state of emergency, like the riot at the Parliament on 3 August of 2021, when the police used force to dispel the rioters trying to get into the parliament.
A few MPs suffered minor injuries during the unrest.
Meanwhile, Pocius is accusing the Interior Minister of mobbing, humiliation and other forms of improper behaviour. The dismissed police officer told Lithuanian media among other things that the minister would demandingly ask him in her office to lift his shirt to make sure that no wires had been placed on his body to record their conversations.
«She used to summon me for interviews – I couldn’t bring in any phones, any devices, I had to unbutton my shirt and show that I was unwired. She has been showing me this kind of disrespect and humiliation since August last year,» the general told Lithuanian media.
Upon the revelation, the internet was exploding with acerbic comments against the Interior Minister, who scrambles on the bottom of Lithuanian politicians’ rankings.
Darius Kuolys, a famous Lithuanian public life activist, a former Education and Science minister, wrote this on his Facebook page: «The fights between our politicians being helped by guys from the State Security Department with our police generals are a very sad parody.»
Meanwhile, Saulius Skvernelis, the chairman of the Democrats «For Lithuania» who initiated the meeting in the Parliament, said: «What Pocius said regarding the crackdown on the riots at the Seimas is scandalous information that shows the absurd incompetence of Interior Ministry’s leadership. Judging from what he said, we can see that the riots at the Seimas were suppressed without any plan and without any legal basis.»
Speaking of the riot, Pocius has said: «Within two hours, we were on combat alert. [Police chief] Renatas Požėla was not answering his phone, we did not know what to do. At around 22:30, Minister Bilotaitė phoned me and told me to go to the parliament – she said that and hung up. What’s the situation, what should we do, should I go there myself? The situation was completely unclear.»
Once they were at the site,
the Public Security Service was not told what it was responsible for, according to Pocius.
«Hold on, we are not a police unit, we are a special combat readiness service that works according to operational plans. We need to be told what the plan is and we will know what to do. There was total chaos, total anarchy, and absolutely no organisation,» Pocius is quoted by delfi.lt
Pocius said his relations with Bilotaitė became strained after the riots and he was repeatedly asked to resign. Bilotaitė, for her part, called some of his statements «morbid delusions» and the general’s attitude to his work, rather than the crackdown on the riots, was the reason for her lack of confidence in Pocius.
The minister arrived at the siting with Renatas Požėla, the country’s Police Commissioner General, who was appointed to the post by Saulius Skvernelis, a former Prime Minister.
Upon seeing Požėla, Skvernelis snapped: «It is strange to see the Police Commissioner General here. Just to remind you are head of a depoliticised institution. The opposition did not invite you, as we do not intend to speak about the tactics used in the riot.»
By the tactics, the former Prime Minister referred to the fact that, during the riot, officers stood for a while immobile albeit being beaten up, and the next day the Interior Ministry and the Police Department leadership tried to explain it away by saying they were using the Scandinavian model of riot control. This is what Pocius has said.
After Pocius was removed from his position last week, little explanation came from the Interior Ministry for the decision.
Only after social media started sizzling comments on the dismissal, Bilotaitė came forward with the explanation.
«We are going through a difficult period marked by complicated geopolitical situation, the state of emergency. This implies that all our statutory services must be on much high alert and all our officers are therefore subject to much higher requirements. First of all, this concerns compliance, coordination and round-the-clock availability – this is very important,» she said.
Bilotaitė stressed that Pocius was being dismissed under a mutual agreement following the general’s request. In June, Pocius was reprimanded for official misconduct, she reminded.
The PSS chief vowed to appeal against his reprimand.
Pocius has led the PSS since 2015. Before that, he served within the army and law enforcement system.
Bnn reminds that around 5,000 people flocked outside the Seimas in Vilnius last August to clamour the government’s planned restrictions on people who were not immune to the coronavirus and refused to get tested, as well as to protest what the gathering organisers called «promotion of LGBT agenda.»
At the end of the Seimas session, some protesters blocked the exits from the parliament building. As police officer began to pull people away from the building, riots broke out and people started throwing bottles and launching flares at officers who used tear gas against protesters.
As reported, Vilnius County Police have completed their pre-trial investigation into the riot. Eighty-seven people remain suspects in this case. Some 319 witnesses were interviewed during the investigation, with 101 people notified of suspicions being brought against them. The police later dropped probes against 14 people.
As a result, final suspicions have been brought against 87 people, and 27 persons have been recognised as victims, the police said. Four victims have filed civil claims for non-pecuniary damages for a total of 24,500 euros. The total value of civil claims for property damage stands at 92,600.
Representatives of several opposition parties have already proposed carrying out a parliamentary inquiry into the general Pocius situation after the two sides keep exchanging accusations.