Latvija in brief - 2005-12-14

  • 2005-12-14
The Supreme Court upheld a guilty verdict, previously passed by a lower court, on a former Soviet security officer Nikolai Larionov, who was charged with genocide in Latvia during the Soviet occupation in 1949. Larionov died in early November at the age of 84. In 2003, the Zemgale Regional Court sentenced Larionov to five years in prison for genocide, but released the elderly man until the judgment took effect. When speaking before court, Larionov categorically denied his guilt. He said he was only obeying orders and rewriting documents about the deportation of people from Latvia.

The Latvian Socialist Party will join with Harmony Center, a conglomeration of two left-of-center parties: the National Harmony Party and New Center. The long expected addition of the Socialist Party, which is made up of remnants of the communist party and is led by Alfreds Rubiks, the former communist mayor of Riga, had raised questions as to the true political orientation of the new left of center political union.

Valdis Dombrovskis, a member of the European Parliament, was named "European of the Year," beating out Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks and political science professor Zaneta Ozolina at a ceremony in the Riga Society house. Dombrovskis, a former Finance Minister and member of the center-right New Era party, won for advocating the country's interests in the European budget for 2007-2013 and for his work with the "Laval" case according to news agency Leta. Georgs Andrejevs was chosen European of the year in 2004.

Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs continued his assault on billionaire George Soros, claiming that Soros had bought hundreds of people in the country, and that Latvia was now his vassal state. The attacks were complemented by negative articles in Neatkariga Rita Avize, a paper widely believed to be closely linked to Lembergs.

Varis Bitenieks, a priest in the Lutheran Church, has called on the church's leadership to reinstate Juris Calitis, who was cast out of the church for hosting a gay and lesbian ecumenical service and attending a Reverend Sun Moon religious ceremony. Bitenieks said the church's stance against Calitis created the impression of a "Medieval Inquisition and repression," adding that the move could cause many people to leave the church. Calitis hosted an ecumenical service for the participants of the country's first gay pride parade, an event that brought out a crowd of angry thousands in protest.

The Riga Circus administration proposed that the 2006 World Ice-Hockey Championship, which will be held in the Latvian capital, could commence with a show of ice-skating polar bears. According to circus director Gunars Katkevics, Championship organizers said they did not have enough funds for the polar bear show. Therefore, state funding would be required. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said it would be "a brilliant show." It would be the first ice-hockey championship ever opened by ice-skating polar bears.