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Latvija in brief - 2006-08-23

  • 2006-08-23
Two crossings on the Latvian-Russian border were clogged with hundreds of trucks over the past week, forcing drivers to wait up to two days to cross the border. At one point there were almost 800 trucks waiting to cross the Terehova checkpoint, which can handle 400 trucks per day. By Aug. 22 the lines had increased again despite progress made over the weekend. If on Aug. 21 the number of trucks at Terehova had decreased to 490 vehicles, on Aug. 22 it grew again to 550. The number of trucks lining up at Grebneva crossing, also on the Latvian-Russian border, decreased from 310 on Aug. 21 to 290 on Aug. 22. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and Russia's ambassador met to discuss the situation, but they said little could be done to resolve the congestion other than opening a third crossing point, which would require time.

Relatives of Latvian troops participating in international peacekeeping missions sent video greetings to their loved ones while meeting with Defense Minister Atis Slakteris on Aug. 20. About 50 relatives used the opportunity, the Baltic News Service reported. Addressing members of the Soldiers' Families group, the defense minister said that the troops' living conditions were significantly better than that of previous missions. The minister also reiterated that, for the time being, Latvia was not planning to send its soldiers to the international mission in Lebanon, as this would result in cutting the number of servicemen involved in other peacekeeping operations. There are currently 117 Latvian troops taking part in the multi-national mission in Iraq, while 36 Latvian soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan, 10 in Kosovo, one in Bosnia and Herzegovina and one in Georgia.

The government has discussed a Health Ministry initiative to ban the sale of unhealthy food in schools and kindergartens. The Health Ministry indicates that, for now, children in most educational institutions can easily buy unhealthy food, including products with artificial coloring and sweeteners, as well as foodstuffs with a high fat and sugar content. The distribution of these products should be restricted in schools, the ministry believes, as "they cannot be considered part of a healthy daily diet." Under the draft amendments, children can bring such products to school, except for in kindergartens, where the food will be totally banned. The draft provisions would prohibit selling schoolchildren drinks containing artificial coloring, sweeteners, preservatives, caffeine and amino acids, as well as salty snacks and colored chewing gum as of Sept. 1.

During the first six months of 2006, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has received nearly 3,500 letters from Latvian residents complaining about price hikes and the hardships of daily life. Citizens normally ask for the president's assistance in solving various problems regarding denationalized apartments, land property rights, citizenship and migration issues, obtaining visas for leaving or entering Latvia as well as various benefits and allowances.