Lithuanian lawmaker dies in radio studio

A senior Lithuanian lawmaker died Monday in a radio studio just a minute before he was due to go on air for a talk show, the programme's editor said.

Julius Veselka, 69, died after collapsing in the studio ahead of the noon-time broadcast on the private station Ziniu Radijas.

"Everything was fine, he did not complain about his health, but when he went up to the studio, about a minute before broadcast he felt bad and collapsed in the chair," editor Skirmantas Malinauskas told journalists.

"An ambulance was called immediately and came pretty fast. There were attempts to save his life but the medics could do nothing," he added.

After reporting what had happened, the station replaced its broadcasts with music for several hours.

Emergency services declined to comment on the cause of death.

Veselka had been a member of Lithuania's parliament for 16 of the past 20 years, and was economy minister from 1992 to 1994.

A by-election will be held within six months in the seat that Veselka had retained in last month's parliamentary polls.

His death cuts to 85 the number of seats controlled in Lithuania's 141-member parliament by the incoming government led by the centre-left Social Democrats, who ousted a centre-right coalition last month.

Veselka was a member of the right-wing populist Order and Justice party, who have signed a governing deal with the Social Democrats, the left-wing populist Labour party and an ethnic-Polish movement.

Veselka had been expected to chair the parliamentary economy committee, a high-profile post as Lithuania recovers from a deep slump amid an austerity drive.

"Veselka was able to speak simply and clearly to people about complicated economic matters," Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a statement after news broke of his death.

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