Lithuania's CNSD to ask ForMin to have Prigozhin put on EU sanction list

  • 2020-02-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Seimas' Committee on National Security and Defense plans to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take measures to have Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin and his assets blacklisted by the European Union.

"The person really is fairly known and known for his close ties with the Kremlin regime, one way or another related to the private military company Wagner, and we know that he is subject to US sanctions under three protocols. It has to do not only with Wagner but also with cyber security and interference with election systems, therefore, we believe that Lithuania should show some initiative one way or another for that person to appear on the EU sanction list," CNSD chairman Dainius Gaizauskas, representing the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, told journalists after the committee meeting on Wednesday.

Laurynas Kasciunas, a CNSD member representing the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said the CNSD will consider a proposal next week "to require the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to put Mr. Prigozhin on the EU sanction list".

The CNSD on Wednesday looked into why Prigozhin's private plane landed in Vilnius in late January.

FAILED TO PASS AVIA SOLUTIONS GROUP'S CHECKS

According to Gaizauskas, it was determined that the plane arrived for repairs at one of the companies that belong to Avia Solutions Group, a business group owned by Lithuanian businessman Gediminas Ziemelis.

"We know that it arrived for repairs but, as far as we know, it did not undergo any repairs after it turned out that this aircraft was subject to the sanctions introduced by the US Department of the Treasury," the CNSD chairman said.

Avia Solutions Group said on Wednesday the deal on the aircraft's repairs was not made and the client's order was not accepted.

Avia Solutions Group said in a statement the group has a centralized client check and verification procedure established in line with the international money laundering and terror funding prevention practice.

In this specific case, the client's provided information was checked and on Jan 15, the group said, "the client was not verified due to the inconsistency and insufficiency of information and a lack of information about the capital's origin".

Avia Solutions Group says the decision remained unchanged even after the potential client provided additional information. On Feb 4, this potential client was once again rejected as it "failed to provide new convincing evidence on its ability to meet its commitments and failed to provide convincing evidence on the end beneficiary of services".

SUBJECT TO US SANCTIONS ONLY

Mindaugas Gustys, managing director of Lithuania's state enterprise Oro Navigacija (Air Navigation), told the CNSD meeting on Wednesday that Prigozhin's plane entered Lithuania as he's not subject to any EU sanctions, and the existing US sanctions do not apply in Lithuania.

Vidas Macaitis, deputy commander of the State Border Guard Service, said Lithuanian border guards only check crew members and passengers at airports.

"The plane arrived from Sochi with two crew members. They underwent standard checks and left Lithuania on the same day. The plane stayed at the airport. It left on Feb 13 with crew members who arrived on the same day and left on the plane several hours later," the officer said.

The 15 min.lt news website reported earlier that Prigozhin's private plane Hawker 800 arrived in Vilnius on Jan 28 and stayed there for several weeks.

Prigozhin and his Hawker 800 plane are on the US Treasury Department's sanction list due to Russia's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine, cyber threats against the US and interference with election results.

MULLS RESTRICTIONS FOR LITHUANIAN COMPANIES

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius underlined that Lithuania operates in the legal area of the EU, not the US. Moreover, Lithuania cannot introduce national economic sanctions, it can only ban individual natural persons from crossing its border.

"Unfortunately, economic sanctions, what we have heard very clearly from the European Commission, are not within national competence," the minister told journalists at the parliament on Wednesday.

He said Lithuania had raised the issue of expanding the EU's economic sanctions but later failed to convince other member states.

In his words, Lithuanian businesses themselves should be more responsible in terms of whom to have business relations with.

"I think it might be determined by certain means of economic leverage in the future. Businesses involved in some disputed or dubious dealings might face consequences. Businesses need to think about it," the minister said.

"If some possibilities to indirectly restrict business activity of such companies emerge, then companies should think very carefully before getting involved in such cooperation. Practical thinks might come into play," he said.

Kasciunas proposed looking into the issue of national sanctions "creatively". In his words, it would be possible to introduce certain restrictions for Lithuanian companies working with blacklisted businesses.

"For example, we could sanction those Lithuanian companies that cooperate with sanctioned people on our so-called Magnitsky list. If some company wants to repair the plane of some odious figure, then perhaps that company should not be involved in public procurement or strategic projects. We should think creatively," he said.

The lawmaker also pointed to the absence of an institution in Lithuania to "hunt for the assets of sanctioned persons".