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President, PM, officials meeting to discuss situation of Lithuanian troops in Iraq


VILNIUS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and officials responsible for foreign and security policy are meeting on Wednesday to discuss the situation of Lithuanian troops in Iraq.

Two air bases in Iraq were US and coalition troops are stationed came under missile attacks from Iran last night. Six Lithuanian troops were at one of the bases in Iraq where they train local forces to fight the Islamic State.

According to the Lithuanian presidential office, Nauseda is meeting with Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and National Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation.

Arnoldas Pikzirnis, a national security adviser for the prime minister, told BNS that Skvernelis met with Robertas Sapronas, the Ministry of National Defense's defense policy director, and Major General Gintautas Zenkevicius, commander of the Defense Staff, earlier in the day.

"They discussed the situation regarding the security of our troops and measures being taken to protect them. The prime minister once again thanked the troops and their families for their contribution to Lithuania and the Alliance's security," Pikzirnis said.

Iran launched ballistic missiles against two Iraqi bases housing US and coalition troops in retaliation for the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani last week.

The Lithuanian troops were unhurt during the attack.

Lithuanian Black Hawks will have special equipment used by US army

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian army's decision to buy six American Black Hawk helicopters from the US administration, and not directly from the producing company, Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky, was determined by finances and the technology needs, says Sigitas Dzekunskas, director of the country's Defense Materiel Agency under the Ministry of National Defense.

The ministry announced several week ago its plans to spend 300 million euros on new Black Hawks to replace the Russian Mi-8s the Lithuanian army is using now.

In an interview with the news website, Dzekunskas said that when buying these helicopters, the Lithuanian army would get the whole package, including the project's management, ensured quality and direct involvement in the production of the helicopters.

"When buying from the US government, we get secured quality, price and audit when holding negotiations with the producers and supervising the production process. Specialists from the US government will be constantly directly involved in the production process, and we will receive a product that is the maximum best. Another aspect is that (…) some specific equipment used by the US army, for example, the elements of the recognition system, data bases, can be bought only from the US government. We cannot acquire that from the companies directly," Dzekunskas explained.

In his words, when planning this acquisition, Lithuania also turned to both European and American companies, including France's Airbus, Italy's Leonardo, the US-Canadian company Textron, as well as Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky, the producers of Black Hawks.

According to Dzekunskas, Black Hawks met all operation requirements set by the Lithuanian army.

"For example, we looked into the compatibility with our regional partners and neighboring countries. It was very important for us because of cooperation, joint military exercises and operations. (…) The Swedes have Black Hawk helicopters, and the Poles and Latvians are also buying them. Of course, the Americans we work with also mainly have Black Hawks. There's a huge advantage when we use the same equipment," Dzekunskas said.

In his words, the final price for the six Black Hawks will be known when the negotiations start. Lithuanian copes to sign the contract by the end of this year, and the first helicopters should be delivered in 2024.

Protesters dressed as animals rally in Vilnius against forest cutting

About 100 activists, dressed as animals, held on October 25 a theatrical rally in Vilnius protesting against logging in Lithuania's protected forests. Dressed as hares, bears, wolves and trees, protesters demanded that tree felling be halted in protected areas. They also demanded launching negotiations on a long-term forestry strategy. The activists held banners saying “Change the policy, not climate”, “Don’t kill my brother”, “Don’t betray the forest”. “We want a discussion at...