Eesti in brief - 2005-03-23

  • 2005-03-23
President Arnold Ruutel rejected claims that he missed a historic chance to normalize relations with Russia by refusing to attend the May 9 Victory Day ceremony in Moscow. "I was certainly prepared for criticism, but I think such accusations are unfounded. Estonia is ready to extend a hand of friendship to Russia," he told the Russian news agency Interfax. Ruutel noted that his young life was divided into two periods, a quiet, safe country life in the independent republic before 1940 and then one of confusion and uncertainty when his home village was under fire. "Since that moment, I became a witness to the destiny of my people, and sometimes a participant in the complicated events that now give us numerous reasons to disputes what is true in modern history," he said.

Finland will transfer 13 inmates with Estonian citizenship to prisons across the country by April 1 as part of an agreement on the transfer of convicts. Inmates subject to the transfer can appeal the decision. About 112 people from Estonia were held in Finnish prisons, including 80 drug-crime convicts at the end of February.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was scheduled to open the Deer Leap IT awareness development program that was inspired by Estonia's Tiger Leap program. Georgia will utilize the Baltic state's experience of using the Internet and computers in the education system. The IT service cooperation between the two countries is facilitated by the E-State Academy foundation.

Olympic champion Aavo Pikkuus sold the gold medal he won during the 1976 Montreal games to pay for his medication. The retired cyclist said his dire financial difficulties were caused by sizable medicine bills needed to treat a hypophysis tumor. Pikkuus reportedly has to spend over 1,000 euros on medication a month, while the state provides him an annual allowance of 3,800 euros. The athlete initially planned to sell the medal to a Latvian businessman for $10,000, but after the case received wide publicity last week, the medal was eventually sold to an Estonian businessman at an undisclosed price. The buyer left the medal on display in the Estonian Sport Museum.

Potentially dangerous chemicals were blown into downtown Tallinn from a nearby oil-product port terminal on March 21. The environment protection inspectorate said the unpleasantly smelling and possibly hazardous gas could have originated from oil products overheating while being unloaded.

Thirty-five people have been killed in road accidents since Jan. 1, the road administration reported. From January to February, 26 people were killed, which was twice as many as last year.

The peacekeeping unit ESTPLA-10 arrived in Tallinn on March 21 for a two-week vacation. The 32 soldiers had been in Iraq since December 2004 and participated in over 30 patrol missions and four military operations. The unit disclosed a major weapon and ammo storage in Iraq in January during a joint operation with U.S. soldiers.