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Posts tagged ‘Baltic Land of Lithuania’

Lithuanian civilians fearing Russian attack train for worst

December 01, 2016

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Rasa Miskinyte spent the day in a freezing forest near Lithuania’s capital learning to gather water from a pond with a condom, to filter it through sand, charcoal and cloth, and to make her own stove from a beer can. She thought some basic survival skills would be helpful if Russian troops ever entered Vilnius and her family escaped into the woods.

“Russia is a very dangerous kind of neighbor,” said Miskinyte, a 53-year-old film producer. “They are always aiming at us.” Across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, fears are intensifying that Moscow, after displaying its military might in Georgia, Ukraine and now Syria, could have the Baltic states in its sights next. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned he wouldn’t hesitate to defend Russians wherever they live — words that feel like threats since significant numbers of ethnic Russians live in the Baltics.

Whether the danger is real or just bluster remains to be seen. But in Lithuania, a country that experienced a Russian occupation before, some people aren’t waiting to find out. Young Lithuanian civilians are learning counterinsurgency tactics on weekends. Others, like Miskinyte, have taken steps to protect themselves. The government, in response to pleas from a fearful public, has issued a preparation manual.

Rimvydas Matuzonis directs a project that teaches weekend guerrilla warfare courses. He explained the resolve to be ready by citing a popular saying in the forests of Dzukija, the southern region where his father grew up.

“Spring will come, the cuckoo will sing and we will pave our roads with the corpses of Russian soldiers,” Matuzonis said. To be sure, some in the Baltic states feel confident their NATO membership would protect them from a Russian invasion. Others describe a dull anxiety that flares up only sometimes. But there are some who are truly afraid and already preparing for the worst.

When Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, Miskinyte packed a bag with bread, salt and some essential items and planned to flee to a village where she has a house. She has urged relatives to join her there, if her fears are confirmed.

“In the village you always survive,” Miskinyte said. “There is land, there are vegetables. There is everything there.” Exacerbating the dread lately is Moscow’s move to build up troops and nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian region wedged between NATO members Lithuania and Poland.

Poland is creating a so-called Territorial Defense Force to train thousands of volunteers in cyber-warfare and other low-intensity forms of combat seen in Ukraine. Some of the new volunteers will be assigned to protect Polish territory near Kaliningrad.

But the foreboding is no doubt greater in the ex-Soviet republics, whose decision to regain independence when the Soviet empire collapsed humiliated the Kremlin. In response to calls for guidance from citizens fearing war, Lithuania’s Defense Ministry issued a manual that includes information on survival skills and recognizing Russian weaponry.

The best way to prevent war is to “demonstrate to the aggressor that we are ready to fight for our freedom, for every centimeter of our land,” Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said. “The capabilities, the readiness — this is the only way to stop Russian aggression in the region,” Olekas said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Lithuania re-established a conscript army last year, but so many citizens have volunteered for military duty that a draft hasn’t been necessary. Many civilians in the hugely patriotic nation of 3 million people remain eager to do their part.

Last weekend, in an area of pine woods and fields outside Vilnius, a group of young men donned military fatigues, loaded pellets into replica assault rifles and practiced counterinsurgency tactics. Using armored vehicles and other retired military equipment, they stormed a pretend enemy position amid explosions and thick smoke. Target practice with real weapons followed.

Many of the men said military exercises have been a hobby for years, a way to release stress after a week in the office. But their instructors from Defense Project, a warfare training group, make clear the drills carry a new urgency given Russia’s assertiveness.

“We have a border not only with Russia, but also with Belarus, and we should be aware that the little green men might appear from other borders or even from within,” said Zilvinas Pastarnokas, a 45-year-old retired soldier who helped found Defense Project.

Fears of stewing Russian aggression have raised questions about the loyalties of the ethnic Russians who live in Lithuania and make up about 6 percent of the population. Many settled there when Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union and remained.

Lithuanian officials insist they are not under any suspicion. Yet many Lithuanians worry if war ever came, ethnic Russians would side with Moscow. “The Russians will absolutely be on Putin’s side,” said Miskinyte, the film producer who took the survival course.

For their part, Lithuania’s ethnic Russians decry what they call the “anti-Russian propaganda” of Lithuanian officials, and many hold pro-Kremlin views. “Everything in the Lithuanian press is represented from the one side — that the Russians are the bad guys, that the Russians are coming, that Putin is always bad,” complained Roman Nutsubidze, 30,

Nutsubidze, expressed frustration that the West doesn’t see Putin as a good leader who has restored national pride. He said he loves Lithuania, but thinks Putin has no reason to want to seize the Baltic states.

“I don’t see what he has done bad,” Nutsubidze said. “I don’t actually see it.”

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Lithuania acquires sniper rifles

Vilnius, Lithuania (UPI)

Nov 8, 2016

Lithuania’s military has received new British-made sniper rifles which will be distributed to troops by the end of the year.

The weapons are AXMC sniper rifles manufactured by Accuracy International Ltd under a contract worth more than $1.4 million.

The AXMC rifles can use either .338 Lapua Magnum or .308 Win ammunition through a barrel change, even in field conditions.

The Lithuanian Land Force previously did not have sniper rifles and used an FN SCAR-H PR semi-automatic precision rifles instead. AXMC sniper rifles double the effective range of the FN’s 1,968 feet.

“Accuracy International of the United Kingdom cherishes old traditions of weapon making and is respected worldwide,” said MSgt. Ernestas Kuckailis, an expert of sniper and precision rifles with Juozas Lukša Warfare Training Center, Lithuanian Land Force. “The weapons it manufactures are of high quality and reliability in any conditions, including arctic or desert.

AXMC rifle has a powerful Kahles sight and night vision. The new weapon will allow Lithuanian Land Force personnel destroy targets at nearly 1.5-kilometer [nearly 1 mile] distance both during the day and at night.”

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Lithuania_acquires_sniper_rifles_999.html.

Lithuania signs missile agreement with Norway

by Geoff Ziezulewicz

Vilnius, Lithuania (UPI)

Oct 24, 2016

Lithuania has signed an agreement worth $108 million with Norway for the procurement of the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or NASAMS.

The deal, signed last week by the ministries of defense for each country, covers the sale as well as future support Norway would render to Lithuania in developing midrange air defense capabilities, the Lithuanian ministry said in a statement.

This acquisition and others will combine into an air defense system that offers Lithuania aerial surveillance and control, early warning for ground units and the ability to destroy targets if needed.

Two defense batteries will be acquired under the deal.

The midrange NASAMS equipment is scheduled to be delivered to Lithuania by 2020.

NASAMS was co-developed by Norwegian company Kongsberg and Raytheon…

Source: Space Daily.

Link: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Lithuania_signs_missile_agreement_with_Norway_999.html.

Agrarian newcomers claim victory in Lithuanian election

October 24, 2016

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuania’s political newcomers, representing an agrarian union, claimed victory after Sunday’s runoff in parliamentary elections as voters turned their backs on the ruling Social Democrats, blamed for being unable to revive a sluggish economy and held responsible for a sharp rise in prices following the adoption of the euro.

The Peasants and Green Union, led by 46-year-old millionaire farmer Ramunas Karbauskis were expected to end up with 56 seats in the 141-member Parliament, according to preliminary results provided by the Central Electoral Committee, in the biggest victory by a single party in 20 years.

The conservative Homeland Union-Christian Democrats would have 30 seats, while the incumbent ruling party, the Social Democrats, would take 18 seats, the preliminary results show. The remaining seats were split among several smaller parties.

At stake in Sunday’s runoff were 68 seats. All the other seats had already been allotted after a first round of balloting on Oct. 9. In the first round, the ruling Social Democrats came in third with 13 seats, behind the Homeland Union-Christian Democrats, which won 20 seats, and the Peasants and Green Union with 19 seats.

Expecting a poor showing, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius acknowledged earlier Sunday “a kind of defeat” if his party was forced into opposition. “We should have focused more on the campaign, but we were working instead and hoped people would notice the progress,” Butkevicius told reporters, when casting his ballot at a school in central Vilnius. He was referring to recent policies which the Social Democrats launched after gradually losing support since the last election in 2012, including a controversial labor law that favored employers and measures on transforming the energy sector, leading to a sharp drop in consumers’ utility bills.

The preliminary results indicate that the agrarian bloc will likely form the basis of the next majority ruling coalition, but its partners were unclear. “We are not ruling out any possibilities, even a broad coalition if we agree on the major challenge: how to stop citizens fleeing Lithuania,” Karbauskis, the party’s chairman, told reporters. He has said, however, that he would not take the post of prime minister in any coalition.

Lithuania, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, regained independence after splitting from the Soviet Union in 1990 and has since lost nearly a quarter of its pre-independence population of 3.7 million with many seeking work elsewhere in Europe. It is a member of the 28-nation European Union and was hit hard by the global economic recession in 2009-2010. At the beginning of last year it adopted the EU’s common currency, the euro, which has sharply increased prices while wages and pensions remain among the lowest in the bloc.

Both government and opposition parties had promised to raise living standards in the country of 2.9 million. The conservatives, who campaigned heavily for change were hoping for sizable gains in the election. Their leader Gabrielius Landsbergis, at age 34, had been expected to become Europe’s youngest prime minister. He is the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first head of state after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and considered by many as a national hero.

“This means that our message about necessary changes was not able to reach many voters. But again, this is just the beginning of the long road we will have to travel,” Landsbergis said, visibly disappointed by the result.

Lithuanians vote in what is expected to be a close race

October 23, 2016

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuanians voted Sunday in a runoff election that is expected to bring the center-right opposition to power and end the rule of the current Social Democrat-coalition, with the incumbents taking the heat for a sluggish economy and a sharp rise in prices following the adoption of the euro currency.

At stake are 68 seats in the 141-member Parliament, with all the other seats already assigned after a first round of balloting on Oct. 9. Sunday’s runoff is expected to be close, which could complicate government formation talks.

In the first round, the ruling Social Democrats came in third with 13 seats, behind both a conservative group, the Homeland Union-Christian Democrats, which won 20 seats, and the agrarian Peasants and Green Union with 19 seats.

“I voted for a conservative candidate today because the current Cabinet is a bunch of sleepy bureaucrats who have no idea how to get this country moving forward,” said Vytas Kazlauskas, a 30-year-old teacher in Vilnius. “We all look at Estonia with envy; they had real reforms while we just keep on talking about them.”

Casting his ballot at a high school in the Lithuanian capital, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius acknowledged that it is likely his party could end up in the opposition, which would be “a kind of defeat.”

“We should have focused more on the campaign, but we were working instead and hoped people would notice the progress,” Butkevicius told reporters. He was referring to recent policies which the Social Democrats launched after gradually losing support since the last election in 2012, including a controversial labor law that favored employers and measures that focused heavily on transforming the energy sector, which led to a sharp drop in consumers’ utility bills.

Lithuania, like its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Estonia, regained independence after splitting from the Soviet Union in 1990 and has since lost more than a quarter of its pre-independence population of 3.7 million as many have sought work elsewhere in Europe. It is a member of the 28-nation European Union and was hit hard by the global economic recession in 2009-2010. At the beginning of last year it adopted the EU’s common currency, the euro, which has sharply increased prices while wages and pensions remain among the lowest in the bloc.

Both government and opposition parties have promised to raise living standards in the country of 2.9 million. The conservatives, who campaigned heavily for change, are led by Gabrielius Landsbergis, who at 34 is trying to become Europe’s youngest prime minister. He is the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first head of state after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and considered by many as a national hero.

The leader of the agrarian party is a 46-year-old farmer millionaire, Ramunas Karbauskis, who has sponsored village-themed TV shows, musical festivals and built up his popularity by promoting ethnic Lithuanian culture.

The two men have exchanged harsh rhetoric since the first round, signaling that coalition talks between their parties — if not totally out of the question — would be long and complicated.

Lithuania opposition ahead in polls deemed blow to leftists

17 October 2016 Monday

Early results showed Lithuania’s opposition ahead in the polls Monday, a blow to the Baltic state’s leftwing government, with voters bitter over economic inequality and mass emigration.

With results in from three-quarters of polling stations, the national elections commission said the centrist Lithuanian Peasants and Green Union party (LGPU) had garnered 23 percent of the votes, while the Homeland Union conservatives took 19 percent.

“It was a protest vote against the ruling coalition,” said Ramunas Vilpisauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in the capital Vilnius.

He said a new labour law which makes it easier to hire and fire employees as well as corruption allegations had alienated voters already angered by low wages and mass emigration to Western Europe.

The election commission earlier tallied turnout at 50 percent of the 2.5 million eligible voters.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, leader of the Homeland Union, has vowed to seek a new center-right coalition with the LPGU.

Positioning itself as kingmaker, the LGPU said it was open for talks with both conservatives and leftists, but said it would not clinch any deal before the decisive runoff round in two weeks.

Seventy members of Lithuania’s 141-seat parliament are elected by proportional representation from party lists in the first round. The remaining 71 are chosen in single-member constituency races.

Initial results showed LGPU, led by popular former national police chief Saulius Skvernelis, claimed 19 seats compared to 17 won by the conservatives and 13 for Social Democrats.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/178790/lithuania-opposition-ahead-in-polls-deemed-blow-to-leftists.

Social Democrats face challengers in Lithuania’s election

October 09, 2016

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuanians were voting Sunday in the first round of a parliamentary election, with the governing Social Democrats facing challenges from conservatives and an agrarian party.

Lithuania, the biggest of the three Baltic countries, has struggled to stem emigration since regaining independence in the early 1990s and joining the European Union in 2004. Both the Social Democrats, which have led a coalition government since 2012, and opposition parties have promised to raise living standards in the country of 2.9 million.

Many Lithuanians complain that prices have gone up since the country introduced the euro, the EU’s common currency, in 2015, while salaries have not. The country was hit hard by the global economic meltdown and is just emerging from a recession.

Pre-election polls showed the Social Democrats in the lead, ahead of the agrarian Peasant and Green Party and the conservative Homeland Union-Christian Democrats in the race for parliament’s 141 seats.

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius leads the Social Democrats while the conservatives are led by Gabrielius Landsbergis, who at 34 is trying to become Europe’s youngest prime minister. He is the grandson of Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first head of state after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania remains highly suspicious of Russia and tense relations with Moscow are expected to continue regardless of the outcome of the election. Polling stations will close at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT). A second round will be held on Oct. 23 in constituencies where no candidate wins a majority of votes.

No party is likely to get more than 20 percent support so coalition-building talks are sure to follow the election.

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