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Last Updated:  Friday, 14 March, 2003, 15:49 GMT
'Rasputin' row hits Lithuanian leader
Lena Lolisvili and Rolandas Paksas
Paksas says relations with Lolisvili are purely personal
Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas has rejected criticism of his links with a faith healer who allegedly employs bizarre methods such as wrapping people in toilet paper.

Mr Paksas said in a statement his relations with mystic Lena Lolisvili were personal and that she had no influence on state affairs.

Local media have described Ms Lolisvili as a Lithuanian Rasputin, after the Siberian monk who wielded power behind the scenes at the Russian imperial court at the beginning of the last century.

Correspondents say reports about Ms Lolisvili have caused uproar in the mainly Roman Catholic country, which is sensitive about its image as it prepares for Nato and EU membership.

'Laughing-stock'

Mr Paksas, a former stunt pilot who won a surprise victory in January's presidential election, says Ms Jolisvili gave him the will to live when he was seriously ill and facing a major operation.

It is time for the president to realise he is no longer a pilot flying under bridges but the leader of a democratic state
Lietuvos Rytas newspaper
She is also thought to have predicted in 1996 that he would win the presidency, and was a guest of honour at his inauguration.

But the Lithuanian press has hinted that the mystic has a more sinister role.

The daily Lietuvos Rytas said that candidates for official posts had to meet Ms Lolisvili before they were appointed.

"Lithuania risks becoming the laughing-stock of the world for the next five years," the newspaper said. "It is time for the president to realise he is no longer a pilot flying under bridges but the leader of a democratic state."

Rolandas Paksas
Paksas was elected in January
Cardinal Audrys Backis, the head of the Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church, last week described Ms Lolisvili as a "false prophet" and a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

Conservative MP Jurgis Razma said: "The emerging facts about the influence of this lady are less and less surprising, especially if one has read the history of Russian Tsar Nicholas II and the influence of Rasputin at that time."

Links

Mr Paksas rejected the charges.

"The new interpretations placed on our meetings and relations have reached the point where not only the presidential institution but the Lithuanian state is being discredited," he said.

Ms Jolisvili, an ethnic Georgian, has claimed that God tells her the future, and is said to energise toilet paper before wrapping it around her patients.

She has also said she has links to Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, who is himself a former president, and other top officials.


SEE ALSO:
Shock result in Lithuania poll
05 Jan 03 |  Europe
Europe's next Chernobyl?
26 Apr 99 |  Europe
Country profile: Lithuania
24 Jul 02 |  Country profiles


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