Lithuanian government crisis over Belarusian fertiliser
Ever since the protests against Lukashenka began, Lithuania has sided with the Belarusian opposition and given asylum to many activists. But now it has emerged that Lithuanian Railways has been transporting Belaruskali fertiliser despite US sanctions against the Belarusian state-owned producer. Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and Transport Minister Marius Skuodis have already announced their resignations.
A Christmas present for Lukashenka
The current scenario is the best possible gift for the Belarusian ruler, columnist Arūnas Valinskas laments in 15min:
“For our foreign partners it doesn't matter who occupies which ministerial post. These little games only interest us in our sandbox, as a way for the opposition to shake up the government a little. What matters is how this scandal makes our state look. And we come off looking pretty dreadful, to say the least. We may be giving political asylum to Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, but we're also protecting the wagons that roll through our country carrying the dictator's fertiliser. ... Lithuania has put the best Christmas present under Lukashenka's tree: the transit was not stopped and the government is now crumbling.”
Ministers not to blame
It is not the ministers but the Lithuanian state-owned railway Lietuvos geležinkeliai that is mainly to blame here, writes law professor Gintautas Bartkus on LRT:
“In this particular case, the responsibility for whether or not the contract is respected lies with Lietuvos geležinkeliai. Neither any of the ministers nor the government as a whole has the right to commit a company to a specific contract. ... It may be that the company consulted lawyers and was told that it was allowed to continue fulfilling the contract despite the sanctions. A lot of speculation could be avoided if any information about such an expert opinion and its authors were made available to the public.”