Category: Lithuania

Reference Library – European Union – Lithuania

Lithuanian family finds wrong body, 2 passports in coffin 0

Lithuanian family finds wrong body, 2 passports in coffin

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) A grieving Lithuanian family had its grief compounded by shock last week when a coffin arrived from Sweden bearing a body that was supposed to belong to a dead relative. Instead, the 41-year-old truck driver s family members found a corpse they didn t recognize and two plastic-wrapped passports inside the sealed zinc coffin. The passports belonged to their relative and a Polish man whose body they d received by mistake. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a morgue in Sweden acknowledged mixing up the bodies but blamed a transport company for not providing a photograph of the recently deceased Lithuanian. Most Read Stories Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks. [1] Ministry spokeswoman Rasa Jakilaitiene says the Polish man s body has been sent back to Sweden, while the Lithuanian s remains are expected to arrive home later this week. References ^ Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks. (www.seattletimes.com)

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The Ghosts of Soviets Past: Crawling Through the Decayed Nuclear Missile Bases of the USSR

Editor s note: In December 2015, two Army intelligence officers set out on a trip to explore the mysterious remnants of the Soviet Union in the Baltic States. In the first of this two part series, they showed War on the Rocks readers what they saw in an abandoned Soviet military city [1] . In this part, they explore the remnants of the Soviet nuclear missile infrastructure in Latvia and Estonia. Da? ( ) muttered the broad-shouldered man behind the diner counter, eyes apathetically glancing at the television mounted in the corner of the room playing Russian pop music videos. The place was a far cry from a favorable Yelp review, but it was the only open restaurant in the isolated municipality of Gulbene. We occupied a table in the corner and noticed two other patrons giving us a piercing stare. It seemed we were more interesting to them than the scandalously-dressed teenage Russian pop-stars on TV, and the gaze lasted the full duration of our Latvian truck stop dinner. Our destination in the vicinity of this sleepy little town was an enormous subterranean Dvina missile silo complex, once the home of R-12 medium-range ballistic missiles (NATO designation: SS-4 Sandal) of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Placed on the western edges of the Soviet Union due to their limited range of 2,000 kilometers, the Sandals could reach targets as far west as London. From their initial fielding in 1959 through the 1980s, the Sandals were the mainstay of Soviet nuclear missile forces in Europe, and became infamous in 1962 when 42 of them were revealed in Cuba [2] . Western European capitals within the effective range of the Tirza SS-4 Sandal missiles. Source: Google Maps. Overlay by Authors Four identical silos housed the R-12 missiles, with each kept at a different level of combat launch readiness in the event of nuclear war. Generally, decreased start-up time would be sacrificed for the missile s shelf life in any configuration. For example, a moderate readiness level would allow the missile to be launched within one hour, and included inserted flight path data and initiation of the missile s onboard guidance system. The drawback, however, was that the missile could only remain in such a condition for about three months due to technical constraints such as the expiration of Soviet guidance systems [3] . The nucleus of the complex was a centralized command bunker, which supported each silo through interconnecting corridors buried under an unassuming forest floor; a hub with four very lethal spokes. [embedded content] x https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVlyQUWlu-k [4] A clearing in the dense pine lured us off of a Latvian highway and onto a concrete slab road, a now familiar indicator to us that we were entering an abandoned Soviet military site. Maroon brick structures emerged out of the forest as we drove deeper into Soviet secrecy. Dismounted, we approached the closest building with a sign ominously reading, Personnel on guard are obligated, even at the cost of their lives, not to allow the enemy to BSP. Left sign reads, Personnel on guard are obligated, even at the cost of their lives, not to allow the enemy to BSP. We later learned that BSP ( ‘ ) was a Soviet an acronym for Boevaya Startovaya Pozitsiya ( ‘ ‘ ), which translates to combat launch positon and was the doctrinal term for Red Army missile firing sites and their support facilities [5] . Today, the sign serves as a chilling reminder of the high stakes soldiers in the Soviet missile forces found themselves in. As the information and intelligence war waged on between the United States and the Soviet Union, it became increasingly imperative for missile soldiers to maintain the secrecy of their launch site locations, and enforce perimeter security by any means necessary. Most of the buildings in the deserted military base stood gutted and boarded up. 5.56 NATO bank shell cartridges littered the fractured floorboards against nearly every window, which were haphazardly fortified with the occasional sandbag or loose pile of bricks. Like many other sites we visited, Tirza was seeing a second life as a location for Latvian military exercises. Amid the current geopolitical tensions in the region, it wasn t hard to picture Latvian soldiers firing rounds of blanks against a notional adversary who undoubtedly resembled the Russian Federation. Following the concrete road after our lonely parade down barracks row, the rapidly receding daylight urged us to proceed to the main event. The authors atop an SS-4 Dvina Missile Silo. A few hundred meters through the woodland, we found ourselves within a giant rectangular clearing and observed a gray dome peeking just over the ridge ahead. We scurried up the hill and climbed onto the first dome, where the higher vantage point exposed three other massive concrete lids, each the size of a suburban cul-de-sac perched above each silo. At the dome s bleak summit was a rusting metal outer ring with an exposed center. Looking down the hollowed opening revealed a fifty-meter-deep silo filling with slowly filing with a slurry of rainwater, mud and various oils and lubricants from the complex s operational period. Decades ago, this crumbling chamber once housed a deadly payload. Peering into the darkness, we could envision the sharp-tipped warhead of an SS-12 angrily pointing up at us. Briefly reflecting on this vestige of mutually assured destruction (and mindful of the 40-meter drop beneath the concrete we laid upon), we went about finding a way into the depths of the silo. Jagged edges of protruding concrete near the blast door revealed numerous entry points piercing a large area of raised earth between two silos. Ducking under thick cement slabs, we entered the labyrinthine corridors leading to the dark heart of Tirza. A chill breeze greeted us as we descended further, passing by empty chambers with massive semi-circular pedestals for their deadly cargo. In the unlikely event that the base survived the first round of a nuclear missile exchange, additional ammunition was kept in hardened underground storage bays. An underground missile storage room in the Tirza complex. Crawling into a small opening in the storage bay wall, we plunged into the darkness of a long-forgotten hallway. The cocktail of stale air, silence, and cold heightened our senses. As we turned on our headlamps, a long cement hallway came into view. Like cave drawings for the post-apocalyptic age, the walls were adorned with painted emergency warnings and instructions. It was easy to imagine two Soviet soldiers walking past the exact spot, remarking how their emergency equipment would save them from nuclear-assisted obliteration. Order 0281: Emergency Situation Continuing down the dusty corridor, the silence was punctuated by a sudden electronic chirp, informing us that we would no longer proceed with battery life in our beloved GoPro. It was as if the apparition of a long-dead KGB officer was kindly reminding us to be OPSEC-savvy. Regretting the inability to visually document the rest of our journey, we trudged on. Before long, a fork in the tunnel separated hallways towards Silos 1-1 and 1-2 and between two equally Stygian options: Go left or go right. After negotiating one of the paths away from the command center obstructed by sand and rubble, a ray of light from topside illuminated a large chamber ahead. The first subterranean level of Silo 1-2 resembled the forlorn set of some B-rated science fiction movie. Dusty analog panels lined the tunnel ring around the silo and on the visible level below. Openings in the silo wall hinted at more levels underneath, likely housing a myriad of service shafts, heating and cooling ducts as well as the massive power feeds needed to keep the complex humming. At sundown, we returned to a neglected maintenance shop where our vehicle was parked. Our Toyota RAV4 s headlights and the slow dripping sound of rainwater reanimated the scene of a young Soviet conscript tinkering tirelessly on a mechanically unforgiving Zil truck. Driving through the cavernous bays of the motor pool, the high-beams illuminated crimson-painted instructions and diagrams on the plaster interior. The sprawling maintenance shops at Tirza. Instructions from left: Driver, when pulling out, mind the people between the vehicle and the wall! , Use the enclosure to inflate the tires! , The car loves to be taken a good care of, cleaned and greased! , Driver! Keep your workplace orderly and clean! Maintenance diagram of Soviet Zil truck. Observing the complexity and scale of a missile silo made it difficult to visualize how a massive SS-4 Sandal could be surface launched with minimal support directly from its transport vehicle (transporter erector launcher). We had to see it firsthand, so we resolved to head north into Estonia to visit a former Soviet nuclear surface launch site. We bedded down for the evening in a sleepy suburb a few miles from the Riga airport. Our overindulgence in homemade Latvian black balsam from our gracious but conspiracy-prone ethnic Russian Airbnb host caused us to have a lapse in pre-Estonia planning. The spirits went down much smoother than our host s notions that 9/11 was an inside job, and that the world was controlled by an unholy alliance between the Bilderberg Group and the Rothschild Family. Balsam [6] is one of many old European herbal digestifs (such as the Hungarian Unicum Zwack or more famous German J germeister) that local bartenders pour while joking that it s medicine. Von Moltke s remark on plans never surviving first contact with the enemy became applicable as the balsam proved to be a worthy adversary. Consequently, we blindly entered the deep Baltic woodlands in search of our next site. Despite our blunders, we were able to navigate to the Rohu surface missile launch base with the aid of highway historical markers and small wooden signs pointing to the local Raketibaas. Estonian Google Earth even embedded a geolocation marker for the base. Another sign along the way led us to an overgrown stone marker in a wooded patch of pines. We found ourselves standing in an unremarkable copse, once bloodied by an ambush of Red Army soldiers by Estonian partisans appropriately known as the Forest Brothers. [7] The history of the Baltic states is checkered with occupation by Soviets and Nazis alike, each applying their own measured terror to the conquered. Some Estonians found themselves fighting in integrated national units of the SS [8] , uncomfortably linking Baltic struggles with the brutality of the Nazis. The repulsion of the Soviet soldiers in this insignificant wood turned out to be all for naught, as the Russians would establish themselves in a larger and far more menacing presence only a few years later. Hardened concrete hangar-like structures came into view as the dense pine and scrub began to subside. Their derelict Soviet white-and-blue walls were adorned with graffiti. Vandalism at Rohu was disturbingly centered around Nazi symbolism, which may have been a deliberate slight against Russian neo-nationalism under Putin or a testament to the region s problematic Neo-Nazi activism. Recent violent crimes carried out by Neo-Nazi groups specifically in Tartu even prompted concern from the United Nations Human Rights Council [9] . Nazi symbolism has been banned across the Baltics for the past decade, and it seems the hammer and sickle will be barred from public display throughout Estonia [10] , despite backlash from the Russian Federation. Signs of city life became evident as we drove into the formerly closed city of Tartu, which contains the country s prestigious classical university founded in 1632. Tartu s close proximity to Raadi Airfield, a Soviet heavy bomber base, resulted in the university town becoming a closed city [11] . The movement of its citizens were restricted and foreigners were prohibited from staying overnight (even visiting university lecturers). Tartu has long shed its Soviet past, and is now home to the Baltic Defense College [12] , a multinational military school that regularly hosts NATO senior leadership courses. Over a few pints of Saku beer, we discussed the adventure ahead in an 18 th century gunpowder bunker-turned beer restaurant [13] . Built by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine the Great, the cellar once held enough munitions to level Tartu University above. Thankfully for us, the gunpowder had been traded for beer two centuries before, presumably enough to keep the college students sated (or at the very least, two road-weary intelligence officers). Interior of the P ssirohukelder Gunpowder Cellar turned local watering hole A fortnight and nearly a thousand kilometers later, our meandering through the Baltics led us to the picturesque city of Klaipeda, a medieval port that found new life as a seaside resort popular with Soviet apparatchiks in the 1950s . An evening walk led us a long file of Lithuanian minesweepers and patrol vessels, arranged in impressive parade, yet lazily bobbing in the water with no souls aboard. On the pier beside them were elderly fishermen quietly waiting for their catch, hardly fazed by the city s Black Ghost sculpture [14] menacingly climbing out of the frigid waters. En route north towards Riga, we rushed through the shadowy Baltic countryside and veered off at a junction of rails and roads called Jelgava for one last discovery. Multiple intelligence sources (Google Earth and our now indispensable Latvian urban exploration website) [15] indicated that the Soviet surface launch base of the 307th Regiment of the 29th Missile Division was located nearby, oddly sharing the same GPS coordinates as an inn registered on Google Maps strangely named Zalite New Polygon. Debating whether we were about to stumble into a new-age cult compound, we decided it was worth the risk and traversed narrow country roads between barren potato fields until the dirt track transitioned to concrete slabs; a reminder we were nearing our prize. Steep mounds of grass-covered earth broke the continuity of flat wooded countryside, with each hangar placed methodically a few hundred meters past the last. We navigated our SUV through the massive concrete door frames of each hangar, and had enough space inside to do a few doughnuts (which may have resulted in a 28 Euro fine for a dented muffler). Despite the hangar s size, two massive transporter erector launchers (TELs) would have been a tight squeeze considering they had to transport and launch a missile over 20 meters long. A TEL and missile storage hangar in the Jelgava surface launch complex. Under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty [16] between the United States and Soviet Union, many SS-4 Sandal and SS-20 Saber missiles were ordered to be destroyed along with their transporter vehicle, missile erector, launch stand and propellant tanks. Jelgava was designated as a Soviet missile elimination site, which explained the rusting hulks of demilitarized hardware littering the base. Luckily for us, the warheads were removed from each missile before on-site eradication. Removed cabs from their eliminated transporter erector launchers (TEL), likely RSD-10 Pioneers (NATO Designation: SS-20 Saber), lay abandoned in the Jelgava complex The short winter days reminded us that our time to explore Jelgava was growing short, and we drove through the main checkpoint one more time, admiring the monochromatic mosaics adorning the perimeter wall. And in true Baltic fashion, a territorial German Shepard appeared in time to angrily chase us down the forest road. A gate side mosaic depicting the evolution of warfare (from right to left) An old babushka pedals her worn out bicycle past us, wheels and joints straining from years of use. Missile sites like Tirza, Rohu and Jelgava may have been deactivated for over two decades, but the specter of the Cold War still casts a shadow over the Baltic States. The decaying stone and rusting metal of Soviet military might stand silently in forgotten parts of the Baltic countryside, as leaders in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius publicly and privately express worry about a resurgent Russia with aspirations similar to its communist predecessor. Reflecting on this, and wanting to see for ourselves the border where a Russian incursion might occur, we mapped a journey to an Estonian city where NATO ends and Russia begins: Narva. Adam Maisel is a military intelligence officer in the Army National Guard and veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom s Sentinel. Previously, Adam served as a legislative assistant for the National Guard Association of the United States. The opinions expressed are his and his alone. Will DuVal is a recent graduate of Santa Clara University and an Army Reserve Military Intelligence Officer assigned to the 304th Information Operations Battalion in northern California. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in political science and international affairs with a minor in German studies, and has worked with the Truman National Security Project, U.S. Mission to NATO, and Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs as an intern. References ^ abandoned Soviet military city (warontherocks.com) ^ when 42 of them were revealed in Cuba (www.wilsoncenter.org) ^ due to technical constraints such as the expiration of Soviet guidance systems (www.au.af.mil) ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVlyQUWlu-k (www.youtube.com) ^ was the doctrinal term for Red Army missile firing sites and their support facilities (books.google.com.af) ^ Balsam (en.wikipedia.org) ^ Forest Brothers. (en.wikipedia.org) ^ national units of the SS (en.wikipedia.org) ^ prompted concern from the United Nations Human Rights Council (web.archive.org) ^ the hammer and sickle will be barred from public display throughout Estonia (news.bbc.co.uk) ^ resulted in the university town becoming a closed city (www.baltictimes.com) ^ Baltic Defense College (www.baltdefcol.org) ^ 18th century gunpowder bunker-turned beer restaurant (pyss.ee) ^ Black Ghost sculpture (www.saylabas.com) ^ our now indispensable Latvian urban exploration website) (www.grauzti.lv) ^ 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty (www.acq.osd.mil)

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Publicly platformed: what it’s like to be called out by a celebrity on Twitter

When you tweet to JK Rowling, you never imagine that she ll actually see it. Despite the ostensible accessibility of celebrities on Twitter, their overcrowded mentions and busy schedules mean they don t read most of the 140-character messages directed towards them. Yet sometimes, of course, they do. And sometimes they retweet these messages for their own followers to see and share. Immediately after she retweeted my original tweet my notifications blew up, says Isobel Sweeney, an 18-year-old English literature student from Merseyside who tweeted at Rowling [1] to Fuck off after the author shared her opinions on Jeremy Corbyn yesterday. I think I got somewhere in the region of about fifty replies, most were just fans of Rowling who were offended that I’d disagreed with her. A quick glance through the other tweets JK Rowling retweeted yesterday shows that their authors also received online hate. One was called a foul, loathsome evil little cockroach , another labelled a commie twat and an embarrassment . When Rowling shared a tweet [2] saying Corbyn was like Dumbledore, the tweeter deleted their message and set their account to private. Rowling has 8.07 million Twitter followers. The tweeter in question has 78. It must be exhausting to be JK Rowling on Twitter and receive vitriol and threats merely for having an opinion. But when Rowling retweets people who send her hate, or worse, people who just disagree with her, she opens them up to an army of fans ready to dish out vitriol in return. The author herself is aware of this, as yesterday she blocked out the name and picture of a person who sent her a positive tweet before sharing it, writing: I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. I feel I have to remove this person’s avi because I know the hate she’ll get. Think that through for a moment. pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 [3] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 31, 2016 [4] Rowling also blocked out Sweeney s name when she shared a second tweet [5] from her account, so she is again presumably aware of the impact she can and did have. Yet yesterday and today she has continued to share people s tweets with their names clearly visible. But so what, right? If you tweet at JK Rowling, especially hatefully, don t you open yourself up to this, 78 followers or not? If you’re scared the door might open, try not hurling abuse through the letterbox. https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN [6] J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) September 1, 2016 [7] Perhaps, but not all celebrities just call out people who @ them. Some actually search for their own names and retweet or quote tweet (that is, share the tweet and add their own message to it) people who have criticised them. Emily Reynolds, a 24-year-old freelance writer and author, has experienced this twice. In 2014, Reynolds tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais [8] for his stance on the iCloud hack of celebrity nudes. Although she didn t directly tag Gervais in the tweet by @ing him, the comedian shared her tweet after it gained traction. Because of his retweet, Reynolds began to receive hateful messages and death threats from his fans. It was genuinely awful, she says. Someone sent me a Facebook message with my address and the manner they were going to kill me with in it. I had to call the police, who eventually failed to investigate it, even though I had his name and workplace, because it had happened online . The whole experience was awful. Recently, it happened again. Last month, Reynolds shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie [9] and although she didn t @ the star, or even mention him by name, he retweeted her message to his 11.4 million followers. Fortunately, after she tweeted him to say she had previously received death threats, Gervais quickly undid the retweet, although he didn t apologise. there is a song on the david brent album called ‘please don’t make fun of the disableds’ and i strongly recommend you do not listen to it Emily Reynolds (@rey_z) August 22, 2016 [10] I figured he was too busy to name search so I didn t think he d see it, says Reynolds. Also, he didn t even search Ricky Gervais , my tweet mentioned David Brent , who is literally his fictional character. What I said wasn’t abusive or cruel, I didn’t directly share my tweet with him, I just said that I didn’t like a song he’d written. If you work in a creative industry I think you should probably be more thick-skinned than that. And thick skin is the crux of the issue. Although it is terrible that Gervais and Rowling receive an abundance of hateful tweets, it is something that unfortunately comes with being a celebrity. When they expose average people to their fans, they open them up to a world of fame and hate that they may not be prepared for. Thankfully, Sweeney admits that she wasn t really bothered by the tweets she received, though does believe that Rowling retweets people simply so that her army of Twitter followers will come after them and give them hate . That seems like unlikely behaviour from a woman who fell off the Forbes billionaires list due to the sheer amount of her charitable donations, but it does leave you wondering what celebrities hope to achieve by exposing hateful tweeters. You could argue they simply want the right to argue back, but quote-tweeting someone s message is an active decision to showcase what they said to your followers, as if you merely send a direct reply it doesn t show up on your followers timelines. Perhaps celebrities quote-tweet and retweet to reveal the truth about celebrity life. Due to her own large number of followers, Reynolds herself feels it would be irresponsible to retweet criticism, but she does have her own rules. I feel like it’s different if someone @s you directly, and I feel like it’s different when I receive actively misogynistic hate speech or threats, because I think it’s important that those accounts are deleted and people are aware of how it is to be a woman day to day online. Despite the reasoning behind the retweets, however, it doesn t seem unfair to argue that celebrities should be more careful, especially when they don t know who the tweeter they re exposing really is. In 2015, an 11-year-old girl had her picture shared online and received hundreds of hateful tweets [11] after YouTuber Gabriella Lindley called her out for posting Moo under her Instagram pictures. According to the girl s sister, the incident left her hysterical . Ultimately, both Reynolds and Sweeney do believe celebrities should be more responsible. You can’t be responsible for what other people say on Twitter, and obviously I don’t think Ricky Gervais actually condones the kind of vile and abusive language towards women some of his fans deployed, says Reynolds. But you absolutely have to be aware of the power you have when you use particular platforms and be really careful how you wield that power. References ^ tweeted at Rowling (twitter.com) ^ Rowling shared a tweet (twitter.com) ^ pic.twitter.com/WOACwm0Hm9 (t.co) ^ August 31, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ shared a second tweet (twitter.com) ^ https://t.co/3Z4n0LvJrN (t.co) ^ September 1, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ tweeted criticism of Ricky Gervais (twitter.com) ^ shared her opinion of Gervais latest movie (twitter.com) ^ August 22, 2016 (twitter.com) ^ received hundreds of hateful tweets (superfame.com)