3rd Dec 2022

Lithuanian foreign minister quits in CIA prison row

  • President Grybauskaite believes prisoners were secretly held in her country in service of the CIA (Photo: European Commission)

Lithuania's foreign minister has resigned his post following a sharp disagreement between him and his president over whether the country had held detainees at a secret CIA prison.

Vygaudas Usackas fell on his sword on Thursday (21 January) following a public row with President Dalia Grybauskaite, who believes it likely that Lithuania held such prisoners, something the minister has denied.

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"I‘ve signed my letter of resignation and I'll present it to the prime minister today. I am confident that Lithuania‘s diplomatic service will satisfy the expectations of the citizens and will vouchsafe the expression of country‘s national interests, independent of any change of personality," he told reporters.

In December, a parliamentary enquiry had found that the country's secret services had operated the prisons in partnership with the American intelligence agency from 2002 to 2006.

The investigation however did not say whether prisoners had actually been held, merely that the facilities had existed.

Mr Usackas has continued to insist that no prisoners had been held for interrogations, while the president said this was likely and last week called for prosecutors to open their own enquiry into a possible abuse of office by three top security officials.

The parliamentary probe had cleared senior government leaders of responsibility.

The president had earlier this week said to the prime minister that her "work with foreign minister Vygaudas Usackas is not productive and holds no promise," and that he had "lost the president's trust," Ms Grybauskaite's spokesman told reporters.

She subsequently explicitly demanded his dismissal.

The two had also clashed over the recall of the country's ambassador to Georgia and relations with Belarus. The minister favoured a more confrontational stance with regard to the authoritarian leadership of the neighouring country.

In Lithuania, the office of president is a powerful figure, heading the country's mixed presidential and parliamentary system of government and responsible for foreign affairs.

Mr Usackas' resignation comes a month after the head of Lithuania's intelligence agency stepped down as a result of the secret prison revelations.

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