Eesti in brief - 2006-05-17

  • 2006-05-17
Nearly one-third of Estonia's native Russian-speaking population cannot understand the national language, according to a new survey commissioned by the Estonian Migration Foundation. The survey of non-ethnic Estonians found only 19 percent were fluent in the language, while just over 30 percent could communicate and understand Estonian. Only 2 percent of Russian residents said they could fluently converse in Estonian, while 34 reported no comprehension. Non-ethnic Estonians said they believed learning the language was important in order to get a promotion or find a better job, while others believed it was necessary to participate in society. The survey interviewed 980 people aged 18 to 74.

Parliament's cultural committee has expressed regret over the monthly Estonian newspaper KesKus' choice to republish controversial cartoons depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad in their April issue. The caricatures caused riots around the world after being published in a Danish newspaper earlier this year. At the time, the paper's editor, Juku Kalle Raid, said he believed the cartoons should be published so people would not criticize something they had not seen. On May 15, chairman of the parliamentary culture committee Olav Aarna said the public did not approve of the decision. "It is regrettable that pictures were published in one of Estonia's media publications after having been condemned in several other countries," Aarna said.

State officials could be barred from entering Belarus in retaliation for imposing travel restrictions on President Alexander Lukashenko. On May 12, Estonia imposed a visa ban and financial limitations on officials from Belarus, including its president and ministers, in line with the position adopted by the European Council. In Tallinn, Belarusian Consul General Alexander Ostrovsky told the Russian news service Regnum that such action could bring about retaliation. "It's not within my competence to make forecasts about Belarusian measures, but I'd like to point out that in the framework of bilateral relations many questions are solved on the principle of reciprocity," Ostrovsky was quoted as saying.

Defense forces are using SWAN unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed in Estonia to gather surveillance information in the Spring Storm military exercise. Lieutenant Harles Kosk from the Air Defense Division said the UAVs were used to evaluate the efficiency of units' camouflaging from the air. In the first phase of tactical activity, the UAVs were flown over the brigade's defense positions to find out weak spots in camouflaging, he said. SWAN has a wingspan of approximately three meters and can fly at a speed of about 120 kilometers per hour at an altitude of about two kilometers. The remote-controlled aircraft is equipped with a variety of observation devices, including infrared cameras.