Week in Lithuania: Ex-PM sets up new party, prosecutors to probe «possible terrorisation» of Health Minister

Last week, in Lithuania, the top news was Lithuanian ex-Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis starting new party, Lithuanian MEPs turning to the European Commission over the security of Chinese smartphones and an investigation into threats against Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys.
Ex-PM sets up new political party
MPs who left the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Unions announced on Monday, October 18, they are setting up a new political party, Democratic Party «For Lithuania». The invitation to join the party has been signed by all 13 members of this group in the Lithuanian Seimas, including ex-Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, Vytautas Bakas, Rima Baškienė, Algirdas Butkevičius, Domas Griškevičius, Linas Kukuraitis, Ruta Miliūtė, Laima Mogenienė, Laima Nagienė, Lukas Savickas, Algirdas Stončaitis, Zenonas Streikus ir Tomas Tomilinas.
Lithuania to be bestowed McCain Freedom Award
Lithuania will receive the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) John S. McCain Freedom Award this year, the government said on Monday, October 18. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has been invited to accept the award but will not be able to attend the ceremony in Washington DC. Instead, her pre-recorded thank-you speech will be aired. Besides Lithuania, the award will also honour democratic leaders in Belarus, Burma and Cuba. The Freedom Award was established in 1995 to honour individuals who have worked to advance freedom and democracy around the world and is IRI’s highest form of recognition.
Hanner to invest 60 million euro into Hilton hotel in Venice
Lithuanian RE giant developer Hanner said on Monday, October 18, it starting the construction of a Hilton hotel in the Italian city of Venice and plans to invest around 60 million euros, Hanner said. The company will build Hampton by Hilton, a three-star hotel with 324 rooms and 106 parking places, on Venice’s island of Tronchetto. The construction is scheduled to start later this year and be completed by 2023. Hanner will be the project’s main financial partner, and Apex Alliance will manage the project and the hotel. Hanner will have a 65-70 percent share in the project, ad Apex will have 30-35 percent.
Court lifts 0.5 million euro fine for Olympic Casino
The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania lifted on Tuesday, October 19, the fine of 495,000 euros the Lithuanian Gaming Control Authority imposed on Olympic Casino Group Baltija, the Lithuanian subsidiary of Estonia’s Olympic Entertainment Group, the Baltics’ largest gaming operator. In a final and binding ruling of October 6, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania ruled that Olympic Casino Group Baltija did not breach Lithuania’s Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.
Prosecutors open probe into «possible terrorisation» of health minister
Lithuanian prosecutors said on Tuesday, October 19, they have launched a pre-trial investigation into «possible terrorisation» of Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys, who said earlier that he had complained to the police about threats he was receiving because of his decisions in managing the coronavirus pandemic. Dulkys said he was receiving direct threats in his official email as well.
15min, Lrytas turn off comments on COVID-19 vaccination articles
15min.lt and Lrytas.lt followed Delfi.lt and disabled on Tuesday, October 19, comments on their articles about vaccination against COVID-19. 15min Editor-in-Chief Vaidotas Beniušis said that freedom of speech is a fundamental value, but it cannot be abused by spreading false information that harms society. According to 15min, comments on articles about COVID-19 vaccines have lately contained conspiracy theories and misleading information that undermine confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccination.
Lithuanian MEPs turn to EC over security of Chinese smartphones
A group of Lithuanian MEPs announced on Wednesday October 20, that they have turned to the European Commission over the security of Chinese smartphones, asking for the protection of consumers’ privacy. Initiated by Lithuanian MEP Rasa Juknevičienė, the letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice-President of the European Commission Thierry Breton has been signed by over 30 MEPs from different political groups, including Lithuanian representatives Andrius Kubilius, Aušra Maldeikienė and Juozas Olekas. In the letter, the MEPs are calling on the Commission to take appropriate action to safeguard the privacy of mobile users and the freedom of the information space in Europe.
Lithuanian Foreign minister doubts if his country could mediate in Polish-EU rift
Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Wednesday, October 20, he welcomed President Gitanas Nausėda’s recent proposal to resolve the ongoing dispute between Poland and the EU by means of mediation, but also expressed doubt that Lithuania could be picked to act as that mediator. In his word, sticking to one or another option, when one or another side would be viewed as a perceived winner, would probably not be good for the EU or Poland.
Ukrainian behind Lithuania’s 1991 massacre case detained in Greece
Greek officials have detained Alexander Radkevich, a Ukrainian citizen convicted by a Lithuanian court in the January 1991 Soviet crackdown case, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Wednesday, October 20.
Grocery supermarkets see a slump due to COVID certificate
The flows of visitors to supermarkets shrank by 13.5–16.5 percent between September 19 and October 12 compared to a pre-pandemic baseline period of between January 3 and February 6, 2020, Google’s mobility data show. On September 13, the Lithuanian government restricted access to many services and large stores to people who do not have the COVID-19 immunity certificate. The QR code-based certificate is issued to fully vaccinated people, those who have had the virus and those who have a negative PCR or antigen test result.
President signs law on 100-euro vaccination pay-out for seniors
President Gitanas Nausėda signed on Thursday, October 21, the law on a one-off pay-out of 100 euros for pensioners aged 75 and over for getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. Almost 1.787 million people have received at least one doze of a coronavirus vaccine in Lithuania so far, or 63.9 percent of the population.