VILNIUS 's Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich made a no-holds barred effort on Thursday to convince Lithuanians that he graduated from the Plekhanov economics academy in Moscow, but neither the ruling coalition nor the parliamentary opposition seemed to believe his arguments.
Speaking on the air of three TV channels Uspaskich showed a duplicate of his diploma as, in his words, in the previous diploma his name had been written incorrectly.
"I strictly reject any speculations that I have not graduated from the Plekhanov Academy or that I have lied to all Lithuanian people. I present the documents proving my education not to the media, not to politicians, but to you, the Lithuanian people," the Labor leader said.
However, the evidence did not convince skeptical politicians, including many of the Labor Party's partners in the ruling coalition.
"Uspaskich chose a wrong address. The Center for Quality Assessment in Higher Education establishes whether or not one has received higher education. He should have brought the diploma there. On the other hand, probably he shouldn't. As far as I know, the center addressed the Plekhanov Academy over the diploma, but has not received a reply yet," Juozas Olekas, elder of the ruling Social Democratic Party, told the Baltic News Service.
Aldona Staponkiene, elder of the ruling Union of Farmers and New Democracy Parties, another coalition party, was also unconvinced. "He did not convince me, but raised a lot of doubts, as a copy earlier presented by the press was absolutely different. Maybe he presented a duplicate of the diploma, but that piece of paper did not convince me," Staponkiene said.
She said she would believe that Uspaskich had received higher education only if it was confirmed by "appropriate law enforcement institutions."
Opposition representatives used the occasion to bolster their attacks on Uspaskich and the populist Labor Party.
"If Uspaskich can easily allocate hundreds of thousands of litas for several minutes of a meaningless monologue on TV, we can only imagine what sums of money he might have paid to 'settle' the issue of diploma in Moscow," Conservative MP Jurgis Razma said.
The scandal over Uspaskich's upper education erupted in mid-June after the Ekstra weekly said that the politician had not graduated from the Plekhanov Academy in Moscow, as indicated in his official biography.
In 1997, upon presenting his diploma issued by the Plekhanov Academy, Uspaskich was admitted to Master's studies at Kaunas Technological University.
If it turned out that Uspaskich used a forged diploma, he would face criminal liability for forgery and for using a fake.