Latvija in brief - 2005-03-23

  • 2005-03-23
Okrol, an umbrella association that claims to speak for all Russians in Latvia, and Shtab, the radical anti-education reform organization, announced that come May 4, the 15th anniversary of the re-establishment of Latvia's independence, 3,000 protestors clad in prison uniforms would protest around the Freedom Monument. The aim of the protest, organizers say, is to draw attention to the state's failure to ratify the Framework Convention on National Minorities. The prison uniforms are needed because Russians feel that Latvia is a "spiritual concentration camp," Okrol and Shtab said in a statement. However, instead of wearing the Jewish star of David as they did during their protest March 16, they would wear signs saying Aliens, the term written in a non-citizen's passport. The protest is also partly motivated by high-profile visitors such as Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, organizers said.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks said that he wanted to ratify the National Framework Convention on National Minorities before Parliament's summer holidays in an interview with the newspaper Latvijas Avize. He added that the distinction should be made between long-time minorities, and Soviet era immigrants. Latvia signed the convention nearly 10 years ago, and remains the last of the new EU member states from Eastern Europe not to have ratified it.

A taxi driver was stopped for driving under the influence twice the same night by police. The unidentified driver was pulled over by police in the capital at 12:45 a.m., driving his Skoda Octavia cab. The police took his car to a nearby filling station where they left it so he could pick it up the following day. Police however again stopped the taxi driver at 1:50 a.m. driving the same car.

A Lithuanian citizen was elected to the city council of Kekava, a small town in the center of the country. Igoris Malinauskas was the only foreigner to be elected to municipal government in the country. Seven foreigners chose to contest the elections, but Malinauskas was the only successful one, making it on Latvia's First Party's ticket. In accordance with EU law, citizens of EU member states may vote as well as stand for municipal elections.

Police detained a youth believed to have participated in the apparently racially motivated assault against an Indian chef in the Oldtown March 4. The 20-year- old detainee belongs to a skin head group that holds racist views, police said.

Police uncovered an illegal cigarette factory in the Carnikava region of the capital last weekend. The illicit factory was churning out counterfeit packs of "Marlboro" and "Regal," which according to police estimates were equal to 20 million cigarettes. The clandestine cigarette makers had been operating successfully for a year now, police said. A man named Andrejs was detained in the raid. Law enforcement confiscated illegal equipment reportedly worth millions of lats, and was pursing a criminal case.