Latvija in brief - 2005-10-12

  • 2005-10-12
During the first official visit by a Latvian president to Armenia and Georgia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga picked up honorary doctorates from universities in both countries and offered support for their future development and stronger economic ties. "It is possible that no other people in the world have suffered so much in the course of history as the Armenian people. Nobody has the right to forget the numerous victims of the Armenian people," Vike-Freiberga said in a speech in Yerevan.

The state's population has continued to decline, falling below 2.3 million - its lowest point since 1991. New figures from the country's statistics office revealed that deaths continue to outpace births, while workers have been steadily leaving to take up higher-paying jobs in Ireland and England. Special Task Minister for Integration Ainars Latkovskis said that as much as one-tenth of the country's workforce had left the country. He added that a study should be carried out to ascertain how many of those who left would return. He warned that, if the economy continues to grow, immigrant labor may be needed.

The Latvian consulate in St. Petersburg was again vandalized with paint, while leaflets were left near the consulate bemoaning the country's treatment of its Russian minority. In the wake of the vandalism, Latvian officials said they would discuss the issue bilaterally as well as on the international level, since the attacks have been ongoing since the late 1990s. Previous vandalizing occurred in March of this year. "After this incident, the Foreign Ministry has realized that Russia is unable to ensure protection of the Latvian consular mission, which it should ensure in accordance with the Vienna Convention," Atis Lots, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told the Baltic News Service.

A private first-class soldier was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Identified only as Rolands S., the soldier was hit by a piece of debris in the helmet. He was quickly flown to Baghdad for medical checks, which showed a light concussion. The soldier is expected to return to duty after he recovers.

More than 70 percent of the country is against extending the continuation of the military's mission in Iraq after it expires at the end of the year, according to a survey by pollster SKDS. Latvia currently has 135 soldiers serving in the Polish-controlled sector of the Middle East country. Already the Farmers' Union has promised to make the matter a political issue, becoming the first coalition party to oppose the extension.

Oligarch Boris Berezovsky may have used Latvian banks to funnel $15 million into Ukraine's orange revolution, according to reports that surfaced this week. Aizkraukles Bankas and Trasta komercbankas were the two banks the billionaire ostensibly used, according to one report. Berezovsky has supposedly admitted to offering support for the Ukrainian revolution, which brought a Western-orientated government to power. Berezovsky has traveled to Latvia twice this year, and may now be blacklisted from future travel for reasons that are still unclear.