UNCLAS VILNIUS 001442
EUR/PPD FOR JOANN LOCKARD
EUR/PA FOR MARGO SQUIRE/CARLOS ARANAGA
EUR/NB FOR MARIA GERMANO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREL LH RS
SUBJECT: FORMER AMBASSADOR'S CSIS PAPER CAUSES A
PROMINENT TALKING HEAD TO ROLL
Â¶1. (SBU) Top TV journalist Edmundas Jakilaitis resigned
over an incident in which he reported that a "secret"
U.S. document warned of the dangers of Russian influence
over Lithuanian politicians such as Russian-born Labor
Party Leader Viktor Uspaskich. The document turned out
to be written by former U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania
Keith Smith for the Center for Strategic and
International Studies (CSIS) and was posted on the CSIS
website at least one month prior to its "leak." No names
were mentioned in the document. Jakilaitis claimed he
was pressured into resigning by interfering owners who
feared getting on the wrong side of Uspaskich -- expected
to be Minister of Economy in the newly-forming GOL. LNK
TV station director Paulius Kovas denied external
pressure and insisted that Jakilaitis was fired for
sloppy journalism. The contents of the Smith article
were only slightly debated publicly, but its allegations
of pervasive Russian influence here are likely to return
to the spotlight. For now, the high-profile Jakilaitis
remains the focus of the story. End Summary.
"SECRET U.S. DOCUMENT" IS REALLY CSIS PUBLIC PRESENTATION
Â¶2. (SBU) LNK TV news service director Edmundas
Jakilaitis reported November 16 that a "secret U.S.
document" in his possession described U.S. concerns about
Russian influence over Lithuanian politicians.
Jakilaitis named Labor Party Leader Viktor Uspaskich and
his deputy Antanas Bosas specifically as politicians who
had links to Russian energy concerns through which
Russian Intelligence Services are operating to influence
events in Lithuania. Upon hearing the report, PAS Media
specialist called Jakilaitis, who did not divulge his
source but said the author of the report was Keith Smith,
who served as U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania from 1997-
Â¶2000. We found the report on the Web. It turned out to
be a presentation given by Smith at a CSIS conference on
October 19. The paper is dated August 26.
Â¶3. (U) The media began to inundate PD officers with
questions regarding the secret report and the Embassy's
opinion of Uspaskich. The Embassy released a brief
statement that the report was neither a USG document nor
was it secret. Shortly after acquiring the report
themselves, journalists began asking for our opinion on
the contents of the report, but they were satisfied with
the answer that it was not a USG document.
Â¶4. (SBU) The story turned against Jakilaitis when the
focus of reporting moved from the Smith presentation to
mistakes made by Jakilaitis. The evening of November 17,
Jakilaitis issued a correction that the document was not
official but came from a former high-level official in
the USG. Jakilaitis said his source led him to believe
the report was secret. (NOTE: Three different people
speculated to us that Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S.
Vygaudas Usackas may have been Jakilaitis's "source".)
Â¶5. (U) Lithuania's second leading daily Respublika
reported that Labor Party leader Uspaskich was furious at
Jakilaitis. In public, however, the leader of
Lithuania's most popular party seemed serene. In a
televised interview, Uspaskich calmly spun our denial of
the report's origin into a vote of confidence in him. On
November 19, Jakilaitis resigned.
Â¶6. (U) Jakilaitis followed his resignation with a
November 22 press conference timed for when LNK General
Manager Paulius Kovas planned to be out of the country.
In the press conference, Jakilaitis announced that he had
been forced to resign because of pressure from LNK
owners, who he said feared crossing Uspaskich. Kovas,
tipped off to the conference, returned from the airport
denying any outside pressure to fire Jakilaitis. He said
he asked Jakilaitis to resign because of his sloppy
journalism -- including a prior plagiarism charge by
Baltic1 TV which had accused Jakilaitis of reporting
Baltic1 election survey data as his own.
Â¶7. (U) Jakilaitis remained the focus of the story, but
Ambassador Smith's presentation was given wide
circulation and was even quoted in parliament.
Conservative MP Rasa Jukneviciene asked PM-designate
Algirdas Brazauskas on November 23 if he was aware of
Smith's allegations that the Kremlin employed associates
of the Russian gas giant Gazprom as an intelligence tool.
"Are you confident that Uspaskich will be free from
Gazprom and the direct influence of the Kremlin?" she
asked. Brazauskas responded saying, "I have been the
head of the government for three and a half years and
have not seen anything resembling what you have been
saying to me now. I can tell you absolutely frankly that
I have not noticed any efforts or elements of blackmail
or coercion in our economic relations with Russia."
COMMENT: NEWS CYCLE ENDING BUT REPORT WILL LINGER
Â¶8. (SBU) This affair included most of Lithuania's
favorite topics in political intrigue: journalists
entering the political fray, Russia, the United States,
and top politicians. Jakilaitis tried to tag Uspaskich
with the "Russian-influenced" label by using a U.S.
source to add credibility to his accusation -- a tactic
tried and tested during the Paksas scandal. We expect
the Jakilaitis aspect of this issue to die down shortly,
but assume that Uspaskich will continue to come under
attack by Conservative MPs and the mainstream media who
distrust him. We also expect Conservatives and think
tank types to raise the premise of the Smith article in
the future. End comment.
Â¶9. (U) Bio Notes: Jakilaits, 27, interviewed President
Bush in 2002 prior to the NATO Prague Summit and is a
talented, though apparently careless, journalist.
Jakilaitis went on a Department-sponsored IVP for young
European leaders in 2004. He has landed on his
feet,already being hired by Lietuvos Rytas TV (a
television news program named after Lithuania's largest
daily newspaper, which produces the show). The program
is broadcast on TV3, the top news station in Lithuania.
LNK news producer Rolandas Agintas has replaced
Jakilaitis in the top news spot at LNK.