Latvija in brief - 2005-03-02

  • 2005-03-02
Members of a group called the Red-Youth's Avant Garde gathered outside the Latvian embassy in Moscow, where they handed out literature calling Latvian symbols fascist and threw eggs at the building. They burned a Latvian flag and later tried to take down the flag affixed to the embassy, but were stopped by local police. Russian ambassador to Latvia Viktor Kaluzhny was called to the Latvian Foreign Ministry to explain the vandalism. Kaluzhny condemned the actions, saying such moves were unacceptable.

Five people have died in the eastern region of the country, near the town of Ludza, due to consuming what authorities believe was illegal homemade alcohol. Another is still in the hospital, but is in a stable condition according to hospital staff. The alcohol has been sent off for tests.

The European Court of Human Rights announced that it would accept a complaint filed by Natella Kaftailova who had a deportation order given for her removal from the country shortly after the fall of communism. Kaftailova, who was born in Georgia, arrived with her husband in Latvia in 1984. Her daughter was born after they arrived in Latvia. They later divorced and Kaftailova was categorized as stateless. In the early 1990s her name and her daughter's names were deleted from the state registry, and a deportation order was given although never carried out. In 2001 she and her daughter were finally granted non-citizen status, and identity numbers. Kaftailova is seeking the end of the deportation order.

The right wing newspaper Latvijas Avize published an article on the 40th anniversary of the death of the renowned pilot turned Nazi war criminal Herberts Cukurs (photo), drawing condemnation from the Israeli Embassy and the Simon Wisenthal Center in Jerusalem for claiming that there was no direct evidence that Cukurs participated in Nazi war crimes against Jews. According to the article, Cukurs was killed by the Israeli secret service in Uruguay.

Latvian and German police uncovered an international cigarette smuggling ring leading to the arrest of 10 nationals of Latvia in a massive search involving 50 sites and up to 600 police officers. The criminal organization had purchased 242 tons of tobacco in Germany, and then shipped it to Latvia where illegal plants made copies of popular brands, and as many as 285 million cigarettes. The counterfeit cigarettes were then transported back to Germany and other EU member states, and EU excise taxes were evaded. Four people were detained by local police in Latvia, while another 14 were held in Germany, six of whom were Latvian nationals. Police had been investigating the smuggling operation for two years. The head of the cigarette smugglers is a 42-year-old Moldovan.