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Lithuanian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-07-15 10:52:43
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Lithuania to spend over EUR 17 million on weaponry for Land Force

60 million litas (over EUR 17 million) will be spent on fighting vehicles, anti-tank weaponry and mortars next year to bolster the Lithuanian Armed Force’s Land Force, the Ministry of National Defence said on Thursday. The main focus will be put on the Mechanized Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf. “We plan to finalize the recruitment of the brigade’s personnel and start acquisitions of infantry fighting vehicles, anti-tank weaponry and mortars in 2015. Additional around 60 million litas are planned for the purpose next year,” the ministry said in a statement.

It is also planned to increase the period of service of volunteer troops from 20 to 30 days next year as well as up the number of troops invited for repeated reserve officer training from 500 to 600 and to gradually increase the number of participants of basic military training from 750 to 800. “To improve weaponry of national defence volunteers, there are plans to provide them with designated marksman rifles and heavy machine-guns, and provide some troops with individual protection from weapons of mass destruction,” the ministry said. Additional funds are also planned for the purchase of an anti-aircraft defence system and helicopters as well as for the servicing of the NATO Baltic air-policing mission.

Lithuania plans to send 270 troops to NATO, EU and UN operations next year and will also host five large-scale priority training events. Moreover, the Ministry of National Defence plans to step up preparation for cyber operations and fighting informational threats. For that purpose, the ministry plans to establish a National Cyber Security Center next year. In response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Lithuania will increase its defence budget by 400 million litas next year, compared to the 2014 budget. In 2015, the need for defence assignations will stand at over 1.380 billion litas, or 1.03 percent GDP, the Ministry of National Defence said. Lithuania ‘s defence budget is now 0.78 percent GDP and the country is next-to-last among NATO countries in terms of defence spending. The Seimas of Lithuania is scheduled to allocate additional 130 million litas for defence next week.


Lithuania President warns of growing 'Russian chauvinism'

In Lithuania, July is the season of song festivals but the country’s newly re-elected president, Dalia Grybauskaite, sees little harmony with her massive neighbour to the east: Russia. “Now, we see aggressive rhetoric, aggressive behaviour, aggressive propaganda, and informational wars,” she noted. Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region has unnerved neighbours from Kazakhstan in the south to the Baltic States in the northwest. In an interview with VOA, Grybauskaite warned of”great Russian chauvinism" within the Kremlin that is fuelling the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Ukraine. “The great Russian chauvinism, which is now increasing in Russia, mainly very much depends on the elite, who are trying to revive it. And this is very dangerous," she said. "So I['m] not much sure it will be over in five years, because it will surely be specific to President [Vladimir] Putin.” Both Grybauskaite and Putin have black belts in karate. Some feel that the Russian president may have met his Baltic match - on the verbal level, at least.

On Saturday, Grybauskaite is to be inaugurated president for a second five-year term. As president of Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic States, she is expected to take the lead in countering Russia’s regional ambitions. All three Baltic nations - including Estonia and Latvia -- are members of the European Union and of NATO. The Lithuanian president warns that interference in Ukraine this year marks a dangerous turn in modern Russia’s relations with its neighbours. “It is very worrying. And it looks like it’s not over. The same methods that are now used in Eastern Ukraine -- the same threats, at least not directly military yet, but informational, cyber. Propaganda wars already we are feeling ourselves in the Baltic states [and] Poland, for example. The military exercises also we do have on our borders, in the Kaliningrad region,” Grybauskaite said. Ukraine, along with the United States and its European allies, have accused Russia of allowing fighters and weapons to reach the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow has denied. Russia's government also defends its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, saying it followed what it has called a legal referendum in which Crimean’s voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. Both Kyiv and the West have condemned the vote as illegitimate and in violation of international law.

The president said she has no doubt Russia has supplied sophisticated weapons to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. “Some terrorist groups are supplied with military equipment, clearly of Russian origin, and clearly not from the market," she noted. "But specially provided, and very expensive also.” As in eastern Ukraine, the Baltic’s are home to a large Russian-speaking population. They have 1 million Russian speakers, or 15 percent of the total population. President Grybauskaite sharply criticized the Kremlin’s moves to act against neighbouring countries in the name of defending Russian speakers beyond Russia’s borders. She compared this policy to war justifications made by Germany prior to World War II. “We are seeing methods that have been used in the ‘30s of the last century starting to be used now in the 21st century," she stated. She said Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea woke up NATO. Since then, NATO troops have been rotating through the Baltic’s, training with local military.

Lithuania’s leader said that her country is raising defence spending, aiming to soon hit NATO’s standard of 2 percent of a country's gross domestic product. Lithuania is also working to cut its dependency on Russia for all its natural gas. In December, a ship with liquefied natural gas is scheduled to dock in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda. The ship has the capacity to import more than enough gas to meet all of Lithuania’s needs. To further cut dependency on Russian pipeline gas, Lithuania’s president urged Washington to approve exports of gas from the United States. Such a move would have political benefits, she said. “Today, we see America has responsibility, a quite global one, on security, on democracy, on peace. Energy is one of the tools to secure the peace, without military interventions. And instead of sending troops, you can send the gas, and you will do the same, you will secure the peace in the world,” said Grybauskaite. By cutting gas dependency on Russia and by strengthening defensive alliances with the West, Lithuania’s president seeks to preserve her nation’s independence in the face of Russia’s newly flexed muscle in the region.


Lithuania police monitor fast-breaking Muslims

Police in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius have recorded the names of individuals who attended a Ramadan iftar fast breaking dinner that was organized by the Tablighi Jamaat. The dinner, which was organized on Saturday evening in the city's Islamic Culture and Education Center, was monitored by two police offices who took note of all individuals entering and leaving the building since that morning.

Police patrolling the streets outside the centre were reportedly asking passers-by where they were going, whereas those entering the centre were asked to show their identity cards. Although the police said the measures were taken for security reasons, many commented that it resembled the Soviet-era procedures applied to those engaged in religious practices. The Tablighi Jamaat is an Islamic religious movement based on the principle of the "Work of the Prophets" inviting to God in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad.

The movement was started in 1926 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in India, which was dream of his teacher Moulana Rasheed Ahmad Gangohi. It primarily aims at Tablighi spiritual reformation by working at the grass roots level, reaching out to Muslims across all social and economic spectra to bring them closer to Islam.


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