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Audronis Navickas, a former Lithuanian Air Force commander, says that "nobody was ever going" to send Russian-made Mi-8 helicopters, which are used in Lithuania for rescue and search operations, to Russia for an overhaul.
Former Air Force Commander Colonel Audronis Navickas
Former Air Force Commander Colonel Audronis Navickas
© Augustas Didžgalvis

The reserve officer has taken the Lithuanian Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces to court over his dismissal.

The Defense Ministry has said that Navickas failed to enforce the Defense Resource Council's decision, made in February 2016, not to repair military helicopters in Russia. According to the ministry, the process of sending the Mi-8 helicopters to Russia was cleared by high-ranking defense officials before it was stopped at the last stage in 2016.

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry says that helicopter repairs in Russia would have run counter to the European Union's decisions on sanctions against Moscow and to Lithuania's foreign policy.

"Many of the components will be made in Russia and will have to be delivered (to Lithuania) somehow. The contracts, which bear my signature, have not changed and the helicopters are being repaired under the contracts signed by me," Navickas told reporters.

He said that the helicopter overhaul had been only a pretext to remove him from office.

The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court is to issue its ruling in the case on Jun. 12.

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