VILNIUS - Lithuania closed one of the most turbulent chapters of its short history with the departure of Mecys Laurinkus from his former post of director of the State Security Department on April 30. Acting President Arturas Paulauskas signed a decree relieving Laurinkas of his duties at the department, the nation's intelligence agency, and appointed him ambassador to Spain, a position he was supposed to have taken months earlier.
Last autumn then President Rolandas Paksas attempted to unseat Laurinkus from the department's helm, the top security agent reacted by sharing compromising information on the president with Paulauskas, who at the time was parliamentary chairman.
The files Laurinkus gave Paulauskas hurled the country into five months of political scandal and unflattering revelations and eventually became the basis for Paksas' removal from office on April 6.
Laurinkus, who had held his former job since 1998, has been replaced by Arvydas Pocius, the former deputy director of the department who worked alongside Laurinkus during the investigations into wrongdoing in the Presidential Palace.
Pocius, 46, comes to the job with five years' experience in the department, where he previously oversaw counterterrorism programs. He also served as a prosecutor in the southern city of Marijampole for 15 years.
After an initial disagreement between Paulauskas and Prime Minster Algirdas Brazauskas, who urged the acting president to appoint a temporary director who would serve until the new president took office, the prime minister dropped his objections.
Laurinkus, who will leave for Madrid as early as mid-May, voiced his support for Pocius.
"I believe he is completely suitable for the continued work of the department and for cooperation with fellow NATO member states," Laurinkus told reporters during the debate on Pocius' promotion in the Seimas (Lithuania's parliament).
Before beginning his first day in office on April 30, Pocius stated his intention to continue the work of his predecessor.
"He has continually said he believes in the principle of continuance," said Vytautas Makauskas, spokesman for the State Security Department.
According to Makauskas, the top items on the department's agenda under Makauskas' watch will be the expansion of counterintelligence activities, the coordination of anti-terrorism efforts with Lithuania's strategic partners, and in-depth examination of the effect of foreign capital on the country's economy and political system.
"We foresee more intense investigations into foreign capital in Lithuania," said Makauskas.
One of the most damning accusations against Paksas was the allegation that his 2002 presidential campaign had been partially financed by Russian sources.
Paksas had repeatedly stated his distrust of Laurinkus and Pocius, both appointees of former President Valdas Adamkus. In a March press release, Paksas' administration declared that accusations Pocius had leveled against the Presidential Palace during an investigation of the Alita distillery privatization "go beyond the competence of an employee of the State Security Department and discredit the name of the department."
Critics had also accused Pocius of having been in the employ of the KGB in Soviet times, an allegation that was later proven false.