Eesti in brief - 2006-08-02

  • 2006-08-02
An extremist protest group calling itself the "Forest Incinerators" threatened to start forest fires unless the controversial Bronze Soldier monument is removed from downtown Tallinn. Police are investigating a series of handwritten notes sent to several government offices demanding the statue's removal. Letters were sent to the offices of the president, the prime minister, the interior ministry and the rescue authority. The letter said that unless the monument to Soviet soldiers is taken down, the group would start fires and "let all of Estonia burn down." Police began examining several old forest fires to see if they were deliberately lit and gauge any possible connection to the threats.

Soldiers from Britain and the United States will take part in a training exercise with Estonian troops to prepare for combat in Afghanistan. About 250 soldiers will participate in the drills, code-named Kalev Express. The exercise will train Estonian troops to work with other NATO forces and take command of international units, a defense spokesman said. Two days of basic preparation will be followed by practical training, and anti-terror actions will be practiced. The operation will take place in late September. The exact location will be decided in early September, but is likely to be in Harju County around Tallinn.

The Environment Ministry gave hunters permission to kill 38 bears. With hunting season about to begin, the ministry's forestry department said it would soon issue shooting permits in regions where the ursine population is the highest. Last year the ministry issued 34 hunting permits, but only 20 were killed, compared with 13 bears killed in 2004. A ministry spokesman said bears could only be hunted in areas where they had caused or could cause damage, adding that there are strict fines for those who violate the regulations. Bear season begins on Aug. 1 and runs until the end of October. The Estonian Fund for Nature said it was not opposed to the hunting of bears, as long as it is conducted in a controlled manner.

Estonia is one of the least corrupt, and Lithuania one of the most, of new EU member states, a World Bank study on corruption states. According to the survey, less than one-fourth of firms in Estonia consider corruption a problem. This ranks Estonia behind Slovenia, where one-eighth of firms see corruption as a problem, but yet ahead of Latvia and Lithuania, where respectively a fourth and a third of firms complain of problems with corruption. With regard to the incidence of bribery, the situation is the best in Slovenia and Estonia, where less than 5 percent of firms say they have to pay bribes frequently. Latvia has practically the same level of incidence. Lithuania, however, leads other new EU members in this regard, with as many as one-fourth of firms saying they regularly pay bribes.