Latvija in brief - 2004-10-06

  • 2004-10-06
Janis Smits (photo), a pastor from Latvia's First Party, was chosen as the new head of the parliamentary national security committee. The choice drew angry recriminations from New Era and Former Prime Minister Einars Repse said the decision was "playing with national security." The former chairman, Vilis Kristopans of the Greens and Farmers Union, left the post since so much over the last two years had been accomplished in the sphere of national security.

The Israeli Embassy, the Simon Wisenthal Center and Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks recently denounced about 200 envelopes bearing the likeness of Herberts Cukurs, a famous pilot-turned-Holocaust-war-criminal, issued by the right-wing National Union of Forces. In Pabriks' words, "It is important to be aware that Cukurs was not only a talented pilot, but also a World War II criminal." The foreign minister added that Cukurs was guilty of killing Jews during the war when he worked with the notorious Arajs Commando.

Wages in Latvia are still the lowest among the Baltic states at 474 lats (315 euros) a month, according to the Central Statistics Bureau. This is 6 percent more than the first quarter of 2004. The average monthly wage in Lithuania was 354 euros and 474 euros in Estonia. The average monthly pension in Latvia and Lithuania was 107 euros, while in Estonia it was 136 euros.

Police detained an inebriated man accused of prank-calling the Riga International Airport multiple times, claiming that he was a mechanic who had not properly put an engine back together on an airplane bound for Amsterdam. The man placed six calls to the airport. As it turned out, he was celebrating his 32nd birthday and was reportedly surprised when police caught him.

Local prosecutors have asked that four government officials be levied fines for their participation in the illegal scrapping of a Swedish ship. The act resulted in a 3 million euro bill for the state. Prosecutor Edvins Piliksers would like to see former Riga Mayor Maris Purgailis fined 4,200 lats (6,300 euros) and each of the other three officials - former head of the Transport Ministry's maritime department Laila Medina, former Riga Port authority deputy Andris Dupmenenieks, and the state's former representative to human rights institutions Kristine Malinovska - fined 2,100 lats. The Swedish company Swenbalt reportedly towed a large ship into the Riga Port in 1993 with plans of turning it into a floating business and recreation center. The ship was later turned into scrap over fears that it would sink.

The Latvian-registered First Baltic Channel, which rebroadcasts Russian ORT TV in the Baltics, will have to pay a 2,000 lat (3,000 euro) fine for its failure to ensure unbiased coverage. The channel aired an ORT broadcast on Aug. 31 presenting biased historical facts that denied the Soviet Occupation.