Week in Lithuania | Education Minister to phase out Russian schools; police bust car with two kilos of cocaine

Last week, Kaunas mayor family-owned Viciunai Group kept silence after Ukraine labelled it “international war sponsor”.
Head of new Orthodox exarchate of Constantinople comes to Vilnius
Justinus Kiviloo, an Estonian clergyman of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, came to Lithuania on Friday, the 5th of January, to head a new Orthodox Church structure that is in its final stages of establishment. The head of the new Exarchate of the Patriarchate Constantinople is expected to lead the first service on Saturday, the 6th of January. Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople announced his intention to set up a church structure in Lithuania during his visit to the country last March. The move followed the Patriarch’s reinstatement of five former priests of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Lithuania, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. Five Orthodox priests, who now belong to the new exarchate, were accused of canonical offences and defrocked by Metropolitan Innokentiy of the Lithuanian Orthodox Church in 2022. The Patriarchate of Constantinople then ruled that the priests were removed for their stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, rather than for violating church rules.
PM invites to discuss defence funding
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has invited party leaders, business and trade union representatives to discuss sources of funding for national defence after the existing two-year bank solidarity levy expires. Written on Thursday, the 4th of January, the prime minister’s letter was addressed to the chairs of all political parties represented in the Seimas, the chars of several parliamentary committees, the ministers of defence and finance, the heads of NGSs, trade unions, business and employers’ confederations. The presidential office has also been informed about the meeting. Šimonytė points out that additional funds will be needed to create an army division and as well as changes to the existing conscription system, which, starting in 2025, would require additional funding of around 0.4-0.5% of GDP, on top of the existing funding of 2.52% of GDP, agreed by political parties. The idea of a defence tax was raised by Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the chair of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence.
Education Minister mulls phasing out Russian schools
Lithuania could gradually phase out education in the Russian language, while national minority schools where the education process is done using the languages of EU countries or countries friendly to Lithuania could continue, Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakštas said on Thursday, the 4th of January. In his words, the ministry is currently looking into ways to suspend the use of Russian as a language of instruction, with a proposal expected over the next few weeks. According to the minister, the question is why general education schools in Lithuania use the languages of unfriendly countries as languages of instruction. Moreover, he says, teaching all subjects in the language of a national minority does a disservice to children by making it harder for them to integrate into society.
Viciunai Group keeps silence after Ukraine labels it “international war sponsor”
 Viciūnų Grupė (Viciunai Group), a business group producing and selling seafood and other food products, owned by Visvaldas Matijošaitis, mayor of Lithuania’s second-largest city of Kaunas, and his business partner Liudas Skierus, refrained on Thursday, the 4th of January, to comment on a recent decision by Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) to add it to the list of international war sponsors because it continues its operations in Russia. According to the Ukrainian agency, the Lithuanian group “is conducting its business in Russia as usual without any layoffs, successfully defending the Russian trademark in court, and continuing to recruit staff for its subsidiaries, supporting the labour market in Russia”. The Lithuanian group’s owners say they have been unsuccessfully trying to sell their business in Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad since the spring of 2022 when Russian invaded Ukraine.
Ex-Lithuanian president calls ambassador dispute “unnecessary”
The ongoing public dispute between the presidential office and the Foreign Ministry over the appointment of ambassadors is unnecessary, ex-Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said on Wednesday, the 3rd of January. “I don’t think that the ongoing dispute is about protecting or advancing one’s position. It seems to me that it is an unnecessary public debate,” Adamkus said in an interview with the public broadcaster LRT’s “Dienos Tema” (The Topic of the Day). The Foreign Ministry and the presidential office are at loggerheads over who should be Lithuania’s ambassador to Poland. The presidential office says the candidates put forward by the Foreign Ministry so far were not suitable and has recently proposed changing the ministry’s existing rules for selecting ambassadors. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says President Gitanas Nausėda has not named candidates he could have put forward to the relevant Seimas committee. Also, the ministry sees in the president’s recent request for information on the selection of candidates for Lithuanian ambassadors a possible overstepping of constitutional powers.
Police find over two kilos of cocaine inside car
Police officers in Lithuania’s southern city of Marijampole have seized over two kilograms of cocaine, an illegal firearm and an SUV stolen in France, the Marijampole County Police reported on Wednesday, the 3rd of January. The large amount of drugs was seized during an undercover operation carried out in cooperation with officers from the State Border Guard Service. During the operation, a Mercedes-Benz driven by a Jurbarkas resident was stopped and police officers searched the vehicle and found cocaine stashed inside. Meanwhile, in Jurbarkas, officers detained another local resident also linked to cocaine smuggling. Having noticed police officers, the man tried to escape but failed to do so as officers chased him down and used physical force to detain him.
Lithuania to buy multifunction radar systems from the Netherlands
Lithuania’s Defence Ministry will buy multifunctional artillery radar systems Thales GM200 MM/C from Dutch company Thales Nederland, the ministry said on Wednesday, the 3rd of January. The artillery radar systems to be purchased by Lithuania will significantly strengthen artillery capabilities, Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said, adding that the aim of these radars is to identify the positions of the enemy’s indirect fire systems based on the trajectory of the projectiles fired and to ensure a rapid response to enemy fire. The agreement signed between the Defence Ministries of Lithuania and the Netherlands also provides for cooperation in the field of multifunction radar support.
PM says Lithuania should delay discussion on military draft for women
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė believes that the discussion on mandatory military conscription for women should be postponed for the future. “The discussion on whether young women should also be drafted is not a very easy one, because there would be a major cultural shift for many,” Šimonytė told the public broadcaster LRT in an interview published on Tuesday, the 2nd of January. In mid-December, the government approved the Defence Ministry’s proposed military conscription changes creating the legal prerequisites for universal male conscription. The proposals have yet to approved by the parliament.
Migration watchdog finds citizens with family ties to EU-sanctioned persons
The Migration Department said on Tuesday, the 2nd of January, that its ongoing probe has found a number of Lithuanian citizens with family ties to individuals subject to EU sanctions. The probe was launched after it emerged that two of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s children, Anna and Arkady, hold Lithuanian passports and may have helped their father circumvent international sanctions. According to the Interior Ministry, once the Migration Department has established how many relatives of EU-sanctioned persons have Lithuanian citizenship, other authorities will look into whether they are involved in schemes to circumvent the sanctions. Last year, the parliament amended the Law on Citizenship to allow depriving a dual citizen of their Lithuanian citizenship granted by way of exception if the person publicly expresses support for a state that poses a threat to Lithuania or its allies’ security interests.
Follow us on Facebook and X!