Vilnius vice mayor turns to construction body over Moscow House demolition

  • 2022-10-25
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Valdas Benkunskas, a deputy mayor of Vilnius, representing the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said on Tuesday he had turned to the State Territorial Planning and Construction Inspectorate over the demolition of the Moscow House building in Vilnius.

"Today I turned to the Construction Inspectorate for it to immediately seek a court order and start looking for a contractor to demolish this building," he said.

The vice mayor reminded that a court ruled in April that the construction permit for this building was issued unlawfully and the building should be demolished.

"Once the building is demolished, the land plot will certainly be taken for the city's needs and the future question is what could be built on that place," he said.

The idea to build a Moscow House in Vilnius emerged in July, 2004 when the then Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov attended the celebration of the 750th anniversary of the coronation of Lithuania's King Mindaugas. It was then decided to carry out a similar project in Moscow.

Under the agreement, a Vilnius House was to be built in Moscow but the project eventually failed to reach the construction stage in the Russian capital. Public records show the unfinished building is still managed by the public body Vilnius House, with Alexander Makarov listed as its head. 

In 2016, the Vilnius City District Court partially upheld the Construction Inspectorate's lawsuit and ruled that the building permit was issued in 2008 illegally. The builder was obliged to make project amendments, obtain a building permit and make the building lower by one storey within three years, but failed to do so within the time limit, and the appeal deadline expired in October.

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius has repeatedly vowed to demolish the building.

Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, says Moscow has consistently said it separates politics from business, culture and sports, even though these are the areas it uses to influence the Russian ethnic minority in Lithuania. The narrative of the so-called "Russian world", he says, is tied with "the justification of certain actions by Putin or the Kremlin regime".

According to Kasciunas, it was obvious even before Russia started its war against Ukraine that business ties with Russia were "a huge risk to our national security", which is precisely what the Moscow House project was oriented to.