Secret agent's death is under re-investigation

  • 2010-01-13
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

YESTERDAY: In 2007, philosopher Leonidas Donskis and other intellectuals demonstrated in front of the Lithuanian presidential palace demanding the fair investigation of the death of Vytautas Pociunas. Donskis sang Yesterday and other songs by The Beatles during the protest.

VILNIUS - Last week, new controversial information about the mysterious death of Vytautas Pociunas, a Lithuanian secret service agent and diplomat, appeared. He died in Belarus in 2006. Algimantas Matulevicius, former chairman of the previous parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee told prosecutors that Pociunas probably was investigating the disappearance of many millions of U.S. dollars in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. America’s secret financial support was supposed to be secretly transferred to the Belarusian opposition but the money was stolen in Vilnius, according to suggestions from Matulevicius. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry denies all accusations.

“There were talks on about 40 or 30 million U.S. dollars. It is unclear which part of it did disappear in Lithuania. This was very hot information if he was investigating it,” Matulevicius told journalists during an improvised briefing on Jan. 7, after giving testimony to prosecutors. He is leader of the Civic Democracy Party, which received no seats in parliament during the last parliamentary election, in 2008.

On the early morning of Aug. 23, 2006, Vytautas Pociunas, 48, vice consul of the consulate general of Lithuania in Grodno, Belarus, and officer of the Lithuanian State Security Department, was found dead near the Inturist Hotel in Brest, Belarus. The death was caused by a fall from the ninth floor of the hotel. According to the Belarusian prosecution there were no grounds to believe the death was caused by violence. The Lithuanian prosecutors agreed with this version of events. However, now the case of this mysterious death has been renewed for the third time by the Lithuanian prosecutors because TV journalist Liudvika Pociuniene, widow of Pociunas, insisted on such a renewal. She refuses to accept the version that his death was not murder.

“Money was transferred via people who at that time worked in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. A large part of the financial support did not reach the addressees. The Americans were shocked and asked him unofficially to investigate the case,” Kestutis Masiulis, MP of the ruling Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats, told LNK TV on Jan. 7. Masiulis was a close friend of Pociunas. Earlier, Masiulis was suggesting that the death could be related to Pociunas’ interest in the ties of Lithuanian gas trading companies, selling Russian Gazprom’s gas, with the Lithuanian political elite’s group.
According to Valdas Vasiliauskas, editor-in-chief of the daily Lietuvos Zinios, and other observers, one of the leaders of this unofficial group, nicknamed by the media as the “statesmen,” was Albinas Januska, foreign vice minister in 1993-1998, advisor on national security to President Valdas Adamkus in 1998-2003, secretary of the Foreign Ministry in 2004-2006, advisor of Social Democrat Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas in 2006-2008.

Januska, talking to LNK TV by phone, denied Matulevicius’ suggestions. “It is obvious that the Belarusian special services are spreading such information. Such information is groundless. The Americans did not give money to anybody here. They did establish their own fund and financed training for the Belarusian opposition in Lithuania and Poland. However, they did not give money to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry,” Januska said.
On Jan. 8, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry categorically denied all accusations in its press release. The ministry stated that it has no information about some received or disappeared financial support for the Belarusian opposition. The ministry also urged prosecutors to investigate the accusations. The ministry expressed its readiness to cooperate on investigating the accusations.

The Pociunas case is one of the most mysterious cases in Lithuania. It received a lot of attention and discussion from the public. Soon after Pociunas’ death, the largest Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas published some articles about Pociunas’ extra-marital affair and articles suggesting that Pociunas could have fallen out of the hotel window because of alcohol abuse.

In 2007, the Prosecutor General’s Office received an application from the movement Pilieciu Santalka (Assembly of Citizens) and a number of others including figures famous in the sphere of culture, where it was requested to initiate a pre-trial investigation on the grounds of public dissemination of deceitful stories concerning the deceased Pociunas, stories which could subsequently lead to public contempt and undermine respect for his memory. The prosecutors, however, found no signs of an act constituting a misdemeanor in the articles about Pociunas.

In 2007, philosopher Leonidas Donskis and other intellectuals demonstrated in front of the Lithuanian presidential palace supporting the demands of Pociunas’ widow for a fair investigation of the death of the Lithuanian secret agent and diplomat. Donskis sang Yesterday and other songs by The Beatles during the protest. Donskis, now member of the European Parliament, still feels very emotional about the Pociunas case.

“The Vytautas Pociunas story struck nearly all segments of Lithuanian society. It swiftly evoked a deja-vu feeling in the memory of those who lived in the former Soviet Union and who remember quite well how dissenting voices used to be silenced, or how some ‘difficult’ folks used to perish in a car accident. Yet the most telling remains the fact that Lithuania, a member of the EU and NATO, decided to unquestionably rely on intelligence and forensic information provided by Lukashenko’s Belarus concerning the deceased colonel of Lithuania’s State Security Department, instead of undertaking a serious investigation of this critical matter. More than that, a campaign of regrettable slander was launched in the Lithuanian media against Vytautas Pociunas. 

All these circumstances fueled suspicions that the danger posed by the late colonel for a group of high-ranking officials and media persons, who may have abused their office and influence, called for elimination of the man who was a mortal threat to a mafia-like political and business network. All in all, it is in the best of Lithuania’s interest as a NATO and EU country and as a democracy that more light be shed on this mysterious and sinister story as soon as possible,” Donskis told The Baltic Times.