Lithuanian leader faces storm over 'mafia links'
The president of Lithuania returns home today to a political furore over allegations of links with the Russian mafia, which threaten to engulf his presidency. A parliamentary commission is investigating whether Rolandas Paksas, a former stunt pilot, has been blackmailed by a campaign contributor suspected of links with the Russia mafia. Mr Paksas left for Iraq on Tuesday to visit about 100 Lithuanian troops who are assisting the coalition forces. The contribution put Lithuania in the foreground of nations dubbed “New Europe” by Washington’s hawks for breaking with continental Europe and backing the invasion of Iraq. The Baltic state will join the EU and Nato next May. Many of those sceptical of EU and Nato expansion will seize upon the scandal as evidence that Lithuania remains mired in the corruption and chaos of the former Soviet bloc. Full Story