Eesti in brief - 2006-08-16

  • 2006-08-16
Tallinn and parts of northern Estonia came under a ghostly pall last week as smoke from forest fires in Russia was fanned westward by strong winds. The smoke, which turned the sky an apocalyptic orange, stemmed from fires in northwest Russia. Authorities warned people suffering from shortness of breath, chronic heart disease and respiratory problems to remain indoors.

Criminal investigations have been launched into the abduction of a 19-year old Estonian university student in the Russian territory of Dagestan, which borders the Caspian Sea. Aminat Mahmudova was reportedly abducted by the son of a village mayor in Dagestan as part of a practice known as "bride-stealing." Last week she was returned to her distraught father, who called on the Estonian government to pressure Russian authorities to act. "Thank God it's over now. I thank the people of Estonia for their support," Mahmudova's father, construction businessman Apandi Mahmudov, said. Reports from Makhachkala said police in Dagestan were unwilling to investigate the abduction as bride-stealing was not viewed as a crime by many locals. But now separate criminal investigations have been launched, one in Dagestan and one in Estonia. The family of the kidnapped girl have been asked to remain in the country to assist with the investigation.

Estonia will purchase nearly 100 fingerprint scanners for its border checkpoints in preparation for joining the Schengen visa zone. The scanners, bought at a cost of 2.3 million kroons (147,000 euros), will be used to strengthen the country's borders, which will become the northernmost borders of the Schengen zone, which allows visa-free passage between most western European countries.

The number of tourists has increased by 10 percent in the past year. Recent figures released by the Office of Statistics show that 252,000 visitors stayed in hotels during June, an increase of one tenth on the previous summer. Half of that number stayed in Tallinn, which has also increased its room capacity with the opening of three new hotels. There was an increase in the number of Russian, Nordic and Baltic tourists, and Finnish visitor numbers also increased, reversing a downward trend.

Three members of the Estonian infantry unit ESTCOY-2 sustained injuries in an attack by anti-government forces in the southern Helmand province of Afghanistan late on Aug. 11. Two of the soldiers are back with their unit and the third man was recovering over the weekend, military spokespeople said. The unit was attacked at around 11 p.m. at their camp in Garmser, a regional center in the central part of Helmand province, apparently using an anti-aircraft gun. Two of the injured soldiers were taken by helicopter to a hospital at the Camp Bastion base of the British battle group. One of them returned to the unit after receiving first aid, while the other was left under monitoring for a few days. The third soldier was given first aid by members of his own unit.