Russians refuse cooperation, Lithuanians face dead-end

  • 2005-10-05
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - The probe into former economy minister Victor Uspaskich's mysterious diploma has come to a dead-end. Last week Lithuanian prosecutors returned from Moscow with empty hands, having failed to find any tangible results to their investigation into the minister's diploma, which ostensibly had been obtained at the Plekhanov Academy.

All advance set-up appointments with Russian authorities were canceled, with prosecutors being told that the individuals were either on vacation or had left the job.

The cold shoulder enraged President Valdas Adamkus, who didn't begrudge his criticism of Russian officials.

"Russian officers didn't demonstrate any good will to cooperate with Lithuanian legal enforcement officers. A final decision will be made after the second visit of Lithuanian officers in Russia," said Rita Grumadaite, a presidential spokeswoman.

"The treatment of our representatives does no honor to Russia," Adamkus told journalists on Oct. 3.

Ramutis Jancevicius, the chief prosecutor of the Vilnius district Prosecutor's Office, didn't mince his words. "While in Moscow, Lithuania's prosecutors were treated worse than stray dogs. They even failed to get into the Plekhanov Academy for over a week," he told the Lietuvos Rytas daily.

Still, he stressed that it was imperative to see the original diplomas, which are in the Plekhanov Academy.

"It's time to untie this knot and to conclude what's white and what's black," he said.

Previously, the secretary of the Plekhanov Academy's dean had telephoned to inform that Lithuanian and Russian officers would be able to meet the head of the school. However, when law enforcement officers arrived at the Academy, only a Russian policeman was admitted. He was told that the rector was allegedly absent.

"I'm sure this was done intentionally," said Jancevicius.

"A new legal assistance request is now being drafted to the Russian Prosecutors General Office. This time, we'll ask that the legal assistance request be attributed to Moscow's prosecutors, not the police," he said.

The prosecutor also added that Uspaskich was currently on a trip to Moscow, but he was uninformed about the purpose of his stay.

Curiously, when the diploma scandal broke out this summer, Uspaskich had also spent a lot of time in the Russian capital.

Many MPs were outraged by what they called "sneering at the Lithuanian and Russian bilateral agreement on legal cooperation."

"It turns out that Russia was somehow sneering at this agreement when our prosecutors were left behind the door of the Plekhanov Academy. This is a violation of the agreement," said Juozas Olekas, head of the Social Democrat faction.

Many politicians also agreed that the refusal of Russian law enforcement officers to help their colleagues from Lithuania has raised even more doubts about the authenticity of Uspaskich's diploma.

"The fact that Moscow's officers refuse to cooperate regarding this question, proves that something is being hidden," said Andrius Kubilius, leader of the Homeland Union, an opposition party.

Many feel desperate about the situation. On Oct. 3, Liberal Centrist MP Eligijus Masiulis addressed the program of LNK called "Independent Search Service" with a request to find classmates of the Labor Party's leader, who could provide all necessary answers. The service is a popular evening show that helps people find their relatives, friends and missing people whom they hadn't seen for years.

"No one in our state can virtually confirm or deny if Uspaskich indeed had graduated from the Plekhanov Academy. Having considered the pathetic situation, I have decided to address the TV program and to look for Uspaskich's classmates," Masiulis explained.

The pretrial investigation conducted by prosecutors is meant to clarify whether Uspaskich did not present false data when asking for a permit to work with classified information.

Uspaskich claims he received a university-level degree from a prestigious economics institute, the Plekhanov Academy, but he has been unable to provide sufficient evidence.