Lithuania police ditch Kalashnikovs after recent incidents

AP News
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Posted: Nov 23, 2015 1:52 PM

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Lithuanian police are hanging up their Kalashnikovs — handed out to officers after the Paris attacks — following two embarrassing incidents involving the Soviet-made assault rifles.

Chief Commissioner Linas Pernavas said Monday that various automatic weapons will continue to be used by officers but "the AKs (Kalashnikovs) will be removed from our arsenal."

The decision follows two incidents that led Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis — responsible for the police force — to tender his resignation last week.

On Nov. 17, a civilian was hit by a bullet from a Kalashnikov fired accidentally by a policeman on patrol.

Two days later, a handcuffed convict managed to steal a rifle while escaping a police escort. Officers acknowledged the 24-year-old drug addict fled from an unlocked vehicle with the Kalashnikov, which had been left unattended on the front seat.

The fugitive traveled on public buses to various parts of the capital during his escape and was not caught until five hours later during a manhunt involving 3,000 officers and a helicopter. He was found hiding in a shower cubicle in a community center near the main railway station, where the gun and handcuffs were later discovered.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite criticized Skvernelis' actions during the escape, accusing him of "demonstrating poor judgment and inappropriate communication."

The popular minister handed in his letter of resignation late Friday but Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius refused to sign it. He retains his ministerial post until at least later this week when Butkevicius returns from an official visit to China.