Latvija in brief - 2006-08-16

  • 2006-08-16
Seven National Armed Forces servicemen left for Afghanistan to take part in the reconstruction of the war-torn country's provinces. Military spokesman Normunds Stafeckis said the troops would replace a Latvian liaison officer in Kabul and servicemen from the logistics unit deployed in Mazar-e-Sharif, who are expected to return to Latvia on Aug. 25. Currently, 36 troops of the Latvian contingent are serving with the ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Meymaneh.

An investigation into the botched parachuting exercise that resulted in the deaths of two paratroopers on May 15 has so far identified six soldiers, among them a few officers, as responsible. Army spokesman Uldis Davidovs said five soldiers have so far been reprimanded, one of whom was dismissed. The National Armed Forces special operations unit commander, Andris Bukovskis, was also reportedly punished. The officers will be given five days to appeal the decision before the Defense Ministry's appellate commission.

Speakers of the Estonian, Lithuanian, Swedish and Dutch parliaments will visit Riga on Aug. 21 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Latvia's de facto independence. A parliamentary presidium said that Estonian parliament speaker Toomas Varek, Lithuanian speaker Viktoras Muntianas, Swedish parliament speaker Bjorn von Sydow, and their Dutch counterpart, Frans Weisglas, will spend Aug. 19-22 in Riga. Parliament's presidium approved the estimated costs of the celebrations, which total 27,030 lats (38,460 euros).

Soldiers serving on a peacekeeping mission in Iraq came under fire again on Aug. 13, but there were no casualties. National Armed Forces spokesman Uldis Davidovs told the Baltic News Service that Latvia's military base had been attacked with a mortar. He added that attacks have become more frequent in recent months. The Divania base was last targeted on Aug. 2, and previously on July 24. There are presently 117 Latvian troops serving on the international peace-keeping mission in Iraq.

Frenchman Jacques Clouteau and his 18-year-old donkey ended their two-month journey from Berlin to Latvia on foot at the Ventspils port on Aug. 9. Clouteau told the Baltic News Service that he and his donkey make similar journeys across Europe every year. The duo usually covers about 25 kilometers per day, and Clouteau sleeps in a tent a night. The Frenchman's purpose for travelling is to meet people and learn about the history and culture of various countries.