Latvija in brief - 2006-05-10

  • 2006-05-10
Thousands gathered in Riga's Victory Park on May 9 to mark the anniversary of the Allies' victory in World War II, while a nationalist organization picketed the event nearby. Both war veterans and young Russians swarmed the Victory Monument, built in Riga during the Soviet occupation to commemorate Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. The celebration was relatively peaceful, with attendees lounging on the grass, listening to Russian music, and waving Russian national flags. Numerous flowers were laid at the Victory Monument, and a sign praising those who "defeated fascism" was erected on the open-air stage. The nationalist organization Fatherland Union held a picket across the street from the park to remind celebrators that for the Baltics the end of World War II meant the beginning of Soviet occupation.

The engineer suspected of causing a tragic train collision near Riga's Central Railway Terminal last year, Sergejs Ribacoks, pleaded not guilty during his court hearing on May 8. The court listened to representatives of two aggrieved parties 's Pasarzieru Vilciens (Passenger Train) company representative Sarmite Kalve and insurer Balva representative Aldis Svetins. Pasazieru Vilciens wants 66,000 lats (93,910 euros) from Ribacoks to cover passenger compensation and train renovation expenses. Balva is demanding 153,900 lats, which the insurer paid to international transportation company L Expresis to cover rolling stock renovation of the Riga-Moscow train. Latvia's Railway also wants to receive material compensation of 3,950 lats from Ribacos.

A drunk Finnish hockey fan assaulted a Latvian security guard and broke his nose at a Riga nightclub on May 8. State Police spokeswoman Ieva Zvidre said the Finnish citizen had attempted to approach a stripper, and when a security guard interfered the man violently resisted. The Finn was detained for minor hooliganism and taken to a sobering house, while the injured security guard was hospitalized. A test showed the Finn's blood-alcohol level at about 0.2. "After he sobers up, the police will decide on a punishment," Zvidre said. Police registered a total of 19 various violations on May 8, mostly public intoxication.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga voiced support for Bulgaria's aspirations to join the EU during her meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivaylo Kalfin. During her conversation with the foreign minister, the president urged Bulgaria to finish judicial and other reforms necessary for accession. Kalfin thanked Latvia for lending its support and sharing its experiences.

An unnamed Latvian artist has received 20,000 euros from the European Culture Foundation for creating symbolic national costumes of EU member states, said the Center for Arts Management and Information. Under the project "European National Costume," 25 ethnographic costumes for EU members will be created. The costumes will be tailored to contemporary style, while also carrying ethnic details. The EU flag pattern will be included in all the designs. Project author Kristaps Gulbis said the idea was meant "not as a parody of national costumes and the EU, but as a launch of discussion about national identity within Europe." The artist hopes the costumes will become yet