"One could perceive a covert provocation here... The first sense that one gets after hearing such news is that something is wrong in relations between Lithuania and Germany," Minister Olekas told LRT radio on Sunday, adding that Vilnius-Berlin relations were in fact excellent.
According to Olekas, the story published by the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag might have been a provocation inspired by Russia.
"I would not rule out [such a possibility], because we are in the middle of information war and this might be an element of it. Although it is a reputable newspaper, things happen," Olekas said.
The German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that the German Defence Ministry had said that the country would not sell armoured vehicles to Lithuania within the coming several years. It said that in the production of new armoured vehicles, priority would be given to the German armed forces.
According to the newspaper, Lithuania planned to purchase "a two-digit number" of fighting vehicles and in case of successful negotiations, this would have been a deal between the two governments, not between Lithuania and the Boxer manufacturer, which would have allowed avoiding cumbersome procedures.
"I'd like to reiterate that our relations, as between NATO partners, Lithuania and Germany, are good. We are waiting for German soldiers to come to military exercises we're hosting, to arrive most probably in those same Boxers, for joint preparations with Lithuanian troops. And an article like this might sow some uncertainty," the Lithuanian defence minister added.
Olekas told BNS that until now Lithuania had only held direct talks with the German Defence Ministry on a possible acquisition of armoured howitzers PzH 2000, with an official response expected to come shortly. The German company has directly submitted its offer regarding armoured vehicles, along with nine other manufacturers, he said.
The Lithuanian army is seeking to accelerate the development of its defence capabilities in response to Russia's aggressive actions in the region and the war in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian government forces are fighting against pro-Russian separatists.