C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000704
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2017
TAGS: PREL SCUL LH
SUBJECT: SNIPISKES CEMETERY UPDATE: ONE STEP FORWARD...
REF: VILNIUS 614 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4 (b)
Â¶1. (C) Summary. On September 18, the Prime Minister and his
cabinet agreed that construction on or near the former Jewish
cemetery in the Snipiskes neighborhood of Vilnius should be
stopped and further study done. On September 27, however,
the responsible agency -- the Cultural Heritage Department in
the Ministry of Culture -- issued an order that stopped
"ground work," but allowed construction above ground to
continue. The work stoppage order was ineffective since the
foundation is complete as is most of the four-story apartment
building's frame. Construction continues and parts of the
Government appear to have acted counter to the intent of the
highest levels of the Government. End Summary.
Working Group's recommendations, PM's approval
Â¶2. (U) On August 27, Prime Minister Kirkilas reorganized his
Working Group dealing with this issue. The Group, led by new
chair FM Petras Vaitiekunas, submitted recommendations to the
PM, who met with his cabinet of Ministers and approved those
recommendations on September 18. The cabinet agreed:
-- The Cultural Heritage Department within the Ministry of
Culture has the authority to and should stop construction.
-- The Government should apply to the Prosecutor's Office to
investigate the legality of the land purchase of the
-- The Lithuanian Geological Service in the Ministry of
Environment will conduct a study, in cooperation with
international experts and Lithuanian specialists within two
months to help specify the boundaries of the cemetery.
-- Additional archeological, archival, historical, and
cartographic research should be done as needed.
-- The Ministry of Justice should report to the Government on
the possible legal consequences of halting construction.
Â¶3. (C) President Valdas Adamkus spoke privately to Jewish
groups in New York on September 26 and told them the
construction had been stopped. The Prime Minister told Rabbi
Andrew Baker, Director of International Jewish Affairs of the
American Jewish Congress, on September 27 that construction
would be halted later that day.
Â¶4. (U) On September 27, however, the Cultural Heritage
Department issued a work stoppage order that applies only to
"ground work." This had no effect, since the foundation and
all ground work is complete. Construction continues above
ground on the four story building, the frame of which is
Â¶5. (C) The Ministry of Culture's Cultural Heritage Department
read between the lines of the Prime Minister's order and
tried to comply formally without actually stopping
construction. The Ministry of Culture is headed by the
Liberal and Center Union party, a partner in the PM's
minority ruling coalition. Former Mayor of Vilnius Arturas
Zuokas is the head of the party, and is alleged to have ties
to the building's developers and even a financial interest in
the project. The Ministry has been a source of delays and
diversions since it became involved in this issue in December
Â¶2006. We continue to press the PM to move forward on this
issue, (most recently in a meeting with the Ambassador on
October 1) despite the difficulties of disciplining a
coalition partner member.