Lithuania launches Impeachment Proceedings against pro-Russian MP

Published: 06 June 2017

bastysMindaugas Bastys

By Jonny Wrate

Attempts to block impeachment proceedings against an influential Lithuanian parliament member suspected of pursuing Russian interests failed on Tuesday when parliament voted in favor of turning his case over to the Constitutional Court.

Mindaugas Bastys, a member of the Lithuanian Social-Democrat party (LSDP), which is part of the ruling coalition, was the deputy chairman of the parliament and a candidate to be the next chairman of LSDP.

After the Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) exposed his ties to Russia and activities in advocating the interests of Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, Bastys lost his high-ranked position in the parliament and was forced to quit the race for the chairmanship of LSDP.

The VSD denied Bastys security clearance and provided reasoning for the decision, triggering further procedures against him.

Numerous politicians urged Bastys to resign from the parliament, but he declined to do so, so an impeachment effort was launched in March. After a parliamentary investigation, a special commission, formed just for this case, concluded that he violated the Lithuanian constitution and should lose his parliamentary seat. Bastys refused to testify in front of the commission.

On Tuesday, the Parliament voted to approve the commission's conclusion and hand the case over to the Constitutional Court.

Several of Bastys’ comrades in the LSDP faction stood up in his defense, including Juozas Olekas, who was the minister of defense between 2012 and 2016.

However, the majority was in favor of impeachment. In the first vote, 92 lawmakers voted in favor, 13 voted against, and 17 abstained.

Not a single member of the LSDP faction voted in favor of the commission’s conclusions.

The second vote, which handed the case over to the Constitutional Court, turned out with even bigger majority: 100 MPs voted in favor, one against, and seven abstained.

This time, all 16 MPs from the LSDP faction voted in favor. According to the procedure, after the commission’s report was adopted, there was no longer any point in trying to block the impeachment.

If the Constitutional Court rules that Bastys violated the Constitution and that he broke his oath, one more vote will have to take place at the Parliament.

According to the Constitution, at least 3/5 of the parliament have to vote in favor of impeachment for it to succeed.

The initial intelligence report that was leaked to the media claimed that Bastys had close ties to Evgeni Kostin, who is described as a representative of Rosatom as well as Russian interests in Lithuania.

The VSD claims the relationship between Kostin and Bastys is "close" and Bastys allegedly performs tasks assigned by Kostin, which makes Bastys "vulnerable."

Another connection indicated by VSD is Petr Vojeiko, CEO of Dujotekana, one of Lithuania’s largest energy companies heavily involved in Russian gas deals.

VSD claims in the report that Vojeiko is a former KGB officer who maintains ties to other former members, including Vladimir Yakunin, the former head of Russian railways, who is exposed in major corruption stories.

The intelligence report also linked Bastys to businessman Saturnas Dubininkas, suspected by the VSD to be a former top member of the Lithuanian mafia structure based in Kaunas, the country's second-largest city.

Dubininkas allegedly managed to legalize his assets and works on behalf of Russian and Belorussian interests in Lithuania.

The VSD claims that Bastys has a "personal" relationship with Dubininkas and employed his son as a personal assistant in  parliament.

These claims were later confirmed by the parliamentary commission.