Latvija in brief - 2004-05-20

  • 2004-05-20
Border guards discovered two million cigarettes in an illegal underground factory near the southern city of Bauska. Three men were detained for making the products, without using any technology, out of loose tobacco and defective cigarettes. The three are currently being held and could face up to five years in prison.

A fishing boat - the Astrida - sank last week, killing four of the six sailors onboard. Swedish divers recovered the four bodies and returned them to the Latvian navy. The two remaining members of the crew are still missing. The Astrida is believed to have collided with a larger boat, Swedish experts said.

Defense Minister Atis Slakteris returned from his two-day visit in Iraq on May 12 where he met with Iraqi officials and Latvian soldiers. Slakteris delivered gifts, letters and packages from home, including videos of the World Ice Hockey Championship. "The work of our soldiers has been praised - especially the explosive ordinance disposal specialists," the minister said.

The anti-education reform organization Shtab announced that it had 22,000 signatures from people willing to actively defend the interests of the Russian community. This was announced prior to the Russian congress meeting, which was designed to unite disparate ethnic Russian organizations under one banner.

The National Harmony Party demanded the resignation of Imants Rakins (photo) , chairman of the National Broadcasting Council, for remarks he made in an interview with the extremist newspaper DDD. Rakins had said that de-colonization was "just."

According to a recent poll by the SKDS polling company, opposition in Riga remains steadfast against the proposed pulp mill project outside Jekabpils due to concerns over drinking water contamination. The poll found that nearly 70 percent of Riga residents are opposed to the project, which would be the single largest investment in Latvian history.

A recent study released by the statistics office revealed that nearly 40 percent of residents believe they are living at or below the poverty line. These numbers have declined by 2 percent compared with a year ago.

A Russian official called on the Council of Europe, as well as other international bodies, to induce Latvia in engaging on a new dialogue with its Russophone minority. The Foreign Ministry official criticized the geographical neighbors who "systematically infringe upon the rights of hundreds of thousands of people."

Prime ministers from the Baltic and Nordic states have signed a letter to the Irish prime minister, currently presiding over the EU, to increase cooperation between the EU and Russia concerning environmental matters.