Kaunas, Lithuania; 13 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A demonstration is planned today in Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city. Rally organizers say they will protest increases in telephone bills, and privatization of strategic companies. The rally, which will be held near City Hall, also includes a protest walk to the Lietuvos Telekomas building in Kaunas.
Lithuania's government is getting ready to sell-off the phone company, "Lietuvos Telekomas," the "Mazeikiu Nafta" refinery, several maritime companies in Klaipeda and other state-owned companies this year.
Today's rally is another in a series, since the government last month implemented charges for local phone calls. It comes on the heels of a demonstration last weekend in the port city, Klaipeda.
Labor unions and opposition political parties, which have organized the rallies, say they seek to focus government attention on the problems of average Lithuanians, who earn about 200 dollars per month, and who are having a hard time making ends meet.
In an interview with RFE/RL this week, Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said there exists some "political problems," due to the way the public was informed about the phone surcharges. "I wasn't completely satisfied with the way it (the increase in phone charges) was done," Landsbergis said. But, he also accused the opposition of exploiting the phone bill issue.
Landsbergis said all the elderly and pensioners are exempt from paying the higher phone charges. "They will not have to pay anything," said the Parliament Chairman. But, under the news system, pensioners will receive five hours of free local calls per month, or about ten minutes per day. They will have to pay for calls over that limit. Landsbergis placed the blame about lack of proper information on the press. "The press is operating like (the) opposition," Landsbergis said.