Week in Lithuania: President signs decree recalling ambassador to Russia, Justice Minister changes name spelling

Last week, in Lithuania, the President signed a decree recalling ambassador to Russia, Justice Minister changed name spelling Vilnius hosted NATO PA Spring Session, PM backed Orthodox priests’ bid to break away from Moscow.
President signs revised budget, criticises pace of anti-inflationary measures
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda signed on Monday, May 23, the revised 2022 state budget bill into law but criticised the government for being too slow in introducing measures to help the population absorb the shock caused by growing prices. He said Lithuania was facing the biggest price shock since 1996. The revised budget increased pensions, the non-taxable income rate, and introduced compensations for the population for rising electricity and gas prices. A total of 973 million euros has been allocated to mitigate the effects of inflation, and the budget also includes funds for the reception of Ukrainian refugees, as well as for the railway infrastructure.
PM backs Orthodox priests’ bid to break away from Moscow
Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has written to Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, to support an appeal by some Lithuanian Orthodox Christians willing to break away from Moscow’s jurisdiction, her spokeswoman Rasa Jakilaitienė confirmed on Monday, May 23. In her letter to Bartholomew I, Šimonytė expressed her support for the Orthodox Christians’ appeal and confirmed her readiness to discuss the government’s possible role in re-establishing the activities of the church in Lithuania.
President signs decree recalling ambassador to Russia
President Gitanas Nausėda signed on Monday, May 23, a decree recalling Eitvydas Bajarūnas as Lithuania’s ambassador to Russia as of June 1. The government asked the president to recall the ambassador in response to the massacre of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha by Russian troops.  In response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, Vilnius back in April decided to expel Russia’s ambassador Alexey Isakov and the staff of Russia’s consulate general in Klaipeda, and to downgrade diplomatic ties between Lithuania and Russia to the level of chargés d’affaires.
Lithuanian, British foreign ministers discuss grain exports from Odessa
The Lithuanian and British foreign ministers discussed on Tuesday, May 24, Ukraine’s grain exports through the Black Sea port of Odessa and signed a declaration on bilateral cooperation during their meeting in London. Gabrielius Landsbergis and Elizabeth Truss said they spoke of the need to mobilize efforts and partners, to find a way to unblock the port of Odessa as soon as possible, and to ensure the safety of Ukrainian grain exports to nations on the brink of famine.
BKT looks for new markets, cargo after losing Belaruskali fertilisers
Birių Krovinių Terminalas (Bulk Cargo Terminal), formerly one of the largest stevedoring companies in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, said on Wednesday, May 25, it is looking for new markets and cargo after losing millions of tons of fertilizers from Belarusian producer Belaruskali since February. The company expects the situation to be clearer by mid-year. The company said it plans to use part of the terminal to handle other types of bulk cargo, is actively searching for new types of cargo and new markets, and is assessing the need for future investments. The company says future plans are complicated by the unfavourable geopolitical situation, the suspension of the transit of Belaruskali fertilizers and the war in Ukraine, but more clarity is expected in the middle of this year.
Border guards turn 15 irregular migrants away on border with Belarus
Lithuanian border guards turned away 15 migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Wednesday, May 25. A total of 1,755 people have been prevented from crossing from Belarus into Lithuania at non-designated places so far this year. Lithuanian border guards sent 8,106 people back to Belarus between last August, when they were given the right to deny entry to irregular migrants, and December.
Justice minister changes her name spelling from Lithuanian to Polish
Lithuania’s justice minister announced on Wednesday, May 25, that she has officially changed the spelling of her name and surname and from now on it be spelt in Polish – Ewelina Dobrowolska. Up until now, her name was spelled Evelina Dobrovolska. Several other Lithuanian politicians of Polish descent have also applied to change the spelling of their names. After decades of debate, a law adopted by the Seimas and in force since May 1 states that Lithuanian citizens spell their name and surname in Latin characters without diacritics in ID documents in certain cases. Such spelling is possible if a Lithuanian citizen assumes the non-Lithuanian surname of their spouse, or if the surname of their parents or one of the parents using non-Lithuanian characters in the source of the document.
Lithuania reports 159 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
Lithuania recorded 159 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 over Tuesday, official statistics showed on Wednesday, May 25. Some 137 of the new cases were primary and 22 were secondary. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals currently stands at 79, including nine ICU cases. The 14-day primary infection rate has edged down to 65.6 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 10.2 percent. More than 1 million people in Lithuania have tested positive with COVID-19 at least once. Some 69.8 percent of the Lithuanian population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far.
Lithuania joins Ukraine’s case against Russia at International Court of Justice
The Lithuanian government on Wednesday, May 25, authorised the Justice Ministry to represent Lithuania in the proceedings. Lithuania can intervene in the proceedings under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, according to Dobrowolska. The minister said that the other two Baltic countries are also likely to intervene in the proceedings.
Minister says lower VAT rate on food in Lithuania wouldn’t benefit people
The Lithuanian government has no plans to cut the VAT rate on food as it would not benefit people, Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė said on Thursday, May 26, amid calls by presidential advisers to introduce a lower VAT rate on food under a different model that would benefit consumers. On Tuesday, May 24, Irena Segalovičienė, the president’s chief adviser on economic and social policy, said a lower VAT rate on food could be introduced to fight rising inflation, adding, however, that a model should be found to ensure it benefitted the end consumer.
8th Vilnius Russia Forum takes place in Lithuania
Human rights experts and defenders, civil society representatives, academics were taking part in the 8th Vilnius Russia Forum in Lithuania during May 26-27. The event focuses on Russia’s war in Ukraine, ways to stop the aggression, as well as the increasingly deteriorating civil society situation and media restrictions in Russia. This year’s participants include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the heads of Freedom House, Radio Free Europe and others.
Vilnius hosts NATO PA Spring Session
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Spring Session opened in Vilnius on Friday, May 27, and focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine and NATO’s agenda for the upcoming Madrid summit in June. The event was attended by around 300 lawmakers from 30 NATO member countries and around 100 representatives from other 30 partner countries, the Lithuanian Seimas said.