The Kremlin and Lithuania

(A Lithuanian daily looks into security officer’s “mysterious” death–
Excerpt from report by Lithuanian newspaper Kauno Diena; article by Raimundas Celencevicius and Lauryna Vireliunaite: “Prosecutors Did Not Even Consider the Version of Pociunas’s Death That Is Becoming the Most Important Version”)

During early morning hours of 23 August 2006 in the Belarusian city of Brest, Vytautas Pociunas, a senior State Security Department [VSD] officer, fell from the ninth-floor hotel window. He died instantly. On 30 November 2006, the Prosecutor General’s Office closed the case on Pociunas’s death after determining that it was an accident.

On 26 June, Pociunas’s widow, Liudvika Pociuniene, demanded the reopening of the investigation because she has a reasonable suspicion that her husband was murdered. It turned out that prosecutors did not even consider this version: Pociunas might have been killed by a group that is trying to assume control of Lithuania.

Pociunas’s death had a snowball effect: It tore up the VSD, forced VSD Director Arvydas Pocius out of office, and revealed that Lithuanian special services and state leaders may be mere puppets and that, in reality, the country is ruled by players who remain in the shadows and who are closely tied to Russia’s business and political elite.

All Versions Ruled Out

Pociunas’s death received a lot of attention at the end of last summer. The Conservatives [Homeland Union; TS], with whom Pociunas was closely linked during the last years of his life, devoted the biggest amount of attention to this incident. Euro MP Vytautas Landsbergis, a former leader of the Conservatives, openly said Pociunas’s death was premeditated.

Landsbergis said the theory that labelled Pociunas’s death as completely unconvincing. Thus, the only alternative left — murder. “And of course, it was a political murder,” the Euro MP said openly, implying that the Belarusian special services might have been involved in this crime.

The theory that Pociunas was killed by Belarusian special services, which was debated by the Lithuania media for some time, was quickly forgotten, because there was no evidence to support it.

Pociunas, who occupied a senior post in the VSD, had a much more humble post in Belarus – he was responsible for protecting information at the Lithuanian consulate in Hrodna. The officer used to complain to his close friends that he was often performing simple maintenance duties. It is very unlikely that the Lithuanian officer who was involved in such activities might have angered the Belarusian special services to the point that they decided to kill him.

Most Important Theory Not Even Considered

After ruling out all of the above theories and not finding any signs of struggle in Pociunas’s hotel room, prosecutors decided that Pociunas’s death was an accident. Yet, to many it is still hard to understand why a mature, educated man would lean so far over the window ledge that he fell out, despite the fact that he was a little intoxicated.

Newly discovered facts allow one to think that the officer’s death might have been useful to some of his colleagues and certain Lithuanian politicians and businessmen tied to those colleagues. There is a frightening coincidence: These days it has become known that on 30 March of this year, the VSD gave a Second Degree Merit Cross to Justas Laucius, the prosecutor who determined that Pociunas’s death was an accident. VSD Press Secretary Vytautas Makauskas tried to convince the media that Laucius was honoured for prosecuting Vilius Karalius, the so-called king of contraband, and three court chairmen connected to him. This explanation raises many suspicions, because those cases reached the court in 2004, and Laucius was given the award only now, after he ruled that Pociunas’s death was an accident, not murder.

On 29 June, Kauno Diena found out that the Prosecutor General’s Office did not even consider the version that Pociunas might have been murdered, because even after having been exiled to Hrodna, he had continued to collect information about a certain group that was trying assume control of Lithuania and had been planning to reveal that information. This theory is now becoming the most important explanation of his death.

On 29 June, Deputy Prosecutor General Gintaras Jasaitis told Kauno Diena that the main task of the investigation was to find out whether a crime was committed. “Various circumstances of the death were investigated. The Seimas [parliament] committee asked us whether we intend to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pociunas’s transfer. We answered that it was not an objective of our investigation. Of course, if we had received any signs that the transfer was unlawful, criminal, we would have investigated it. Yet, we were unable to investigate that, because there were no signs of criminal activity,” Jasaitis said.

The Seimas National Security and Defence Committee, which was investigating the VSD activities for several months, established that Albinas Januska, current aide to Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and former national security adviser to President Valdas Adamkus, had a huge influence on the VSD leadership. It was also established that Januska had very close ties to the energy company Dujotekana [Gazprom intermediary] and company president Rimandas Stonys, whose wide connections extend to Russia’s business and political elite. VSD officers testified they had collected plenty of information proving that by generously financing political parties and the media, Dujotekana was exercising huge unlawful influence on the country’s political and economic life and that Januska and Stonys discussed appointments of senior political officials. VSD officers testified they were ready to declare Dujotekana a cover company for the Russian special services, but the VSD leaders blocked their plans.

Deadly Candidness

This week during the Lithuanian National Radio show “Between East and West,” Pociunas’s former friend and co-worker Kestutis Masiulis, leader of the Conservatives Party’s Vilnius branch, announced that two years ago his friend told him about the things that were recently revealed by the National Security and Defence Committee, which investigated the VSD activities.

Masiulis said that in August 2005, Pociunas told him that the VSD leadership was planning to fire him. According to Masiulis, already back then his friend said he had stumbled across a large network of people who work against Lithuania and who had influence over the VSD leadership. According to Masiulis, this is why Pociunas became an unwanted troublemaker who had to be transferred somewhere far away. “His words were very hard to believe. The things were so frightening that at first I did not think they were serious and real,” Masiulis recalled.

Darius Kuolys, the show’s host, quoted two of Pociunas’s phone messages that were sent two years ago. On 10 September 2005, Pociunas wrote: “I am being made a scapegoat; I will be buried.” On 27 October 2005, he wrote: “I am not crazy. I will try to prove that I did not lose, and I think others will understand.”

Masiulis and Pociunas also met during the summer of 2006. “We left our phones, went out into a garden, sat down, and for two hours he told me about horrible things, about control over our state. I realized he was determined enough to stop those things. He was determined, but he looked like a person who was under a lot of pressure and who was pushed into a corner. Even back then, it was difficult for me to accept all that information. It was wide – it touched Itera Lietuva, Stella Vitae – the natural gas companies that were working before Dujotekana. It was about their networks, their influence on the media and politicians. I was surprised by the VSD’s total apathy. He spoke about Dujotekana’s ties to state officials, the media, and politicians. He spoke about a spider web that entangled Lithuania, that was choking it, and that was trying to destroy it. He did not trust his superiors or the President’s Office. He spoke to me as if speaking to a priest during a confession. He was looking for people whom he still trusted and was trying to figure out what to do. He was no longer able to trust his workplace, the most important politicians, while the state was being conquered. What was he to do? What was the officer, who saw such horrible processes and knew that his superiors and perhaps even state leaders were involved, supposed to do? The only possible solution was probably the media. He went to his closest friends, looking for approval. A week went by after our conversation. I went to Germany, and I heard about his death,” Masiulis recalled.

His former colleagues and friends testified before the Seimas committee that Pociunas was planning to reveal the information about the web of corrupt politicians, businessmen, and officers that entangled Lithuania in the fall. Pociunas did not live to see the fall. Yet, symbolically, the probe into the VSD activities was launched that autumn, and during that probe the information that was collected about the entanglement of the state began to be revealed to society.

What Was VSD Leadership Afraid Of?

If the things that Masiulis and Pociunas’s former colleagues are saying are true, his transfer to Hrodna becomes logical, and a key to solving his mysterious death appears. The fact that two years ago Pociunas uncovered shadowy ties between the VSD leadership, senior politicians, and influential businessmen who are tied to Russia seems to be more a convincing reason why Pociunas was transferred from the VSD to the foreign country than the idea being pushed by the VSD leadership, that Pociunas decided to leave due to personal conflicts with his colleagues. Moreover, after Pociunas’s transfer, the division that he had headed was shut down, and the leaders of the counterintelligence division who continued his investigations were expelled.

The VSD leadership’s attempts to kill the investigation into Pociunas’s death become understandable, too. After losing his composure, Darius Jurgelevicius, a deputy VSD director, told the media and politicians to “stop digging among the bones,” because very unpleasant things might be uncovered. VSD Director Pocius, directly and through intermediaries, pressured the Conservatives not to initiate the probe into Pociunas’s death and was trying to force the VSD counterintelligence directors not to testify before the Seimas committee. After the attempts to extinguish the probe failed, the VSD used media loyal to the department to spread compromising information about Pociunas. Society was told that Pociunas allegedly was drunk and fell out the window while trying to urinate. It was also said that Pociunas, who until that moment was considered an almost ideal family man, had a mistress – a journalist who was constantly visiting him in Hrodna – and allegedly Pociunas’s wife had a relationship with her co-worker.

Source: Kauno Diena, Kaunas, in Lithuanian 30 Jun 07


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