Latvija in brief - 2006-12-20

  • 2006-12-20
Parliament passed the 2007 budget, which in the words of Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, "will help solve many problems." Expenditures are set to rise 26 percent to 4.4 billion lats (6.2 billion euros), while revenues are targeted at 4.2 billion. The deficit will amount to 1.4 percent of GDP, which would indicate that any hope for inroads against inflation are unlikely to evolve in 2007. Economy Minister Jurijs Strods stressed the social priorities embedded in the budget, which will help prevent the outflow of the country's workforce.

A group of scientists exploring Djoser's Pyramid in Egypt discovered a new passage in the ancient building. During a previous expedition, the scientists found an inscription devoted to the pyramid's architect, Imhotep, which last week they further explored. The scientists reached a previously unexplored underground level where they found the remains of a skeleton and sarcophagus at a depth of about 45 meters, close to groundwater level. Further investigation is needed to discover whether this level was used for burials or if it served as an underground necropolis during the first two dynasties of Egyptian pharaohs. The scientists also discovered a new passage leading to the eastern gallery and hope to determine the exact location of the passage during the next expedition in 2007. Djoser's Pyramid, the oldest known stone building in the world, was built some 2,700 years B.C. by architect Imhotep.

Rumors over the possible polonium poisoning of a Latvian resident, who has been staying in London's Millennium hotel, have been dispelled. Such suspicions were raised after Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium 210, which may have happened after a meeting at the same hotel. Inga Ernstone, representing the Latvian Embassy in the U.K., told the Baltic News Service that no traces of the radioactive substance were found during examinations of his body. About 620 people have taken medical tests, including 204 from the hotel bar, to find out whether they were also poisoned with polonium. Specialists said that about 29 people might have been exposed to radiation.

Edmunds Johansons, Latvia's last KGB general, presented his memoir, "Notes of a KGB General." The book includes information on the structure of the former Soviet secret service and its last days during Latvia's independence movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The author also describes various special KGB operations in Latvia. Johansons reveals facts previously unknown to the public and speculates what could have happened during the crucial days of August 1991 had the Latvian branch of the KGB yielded to the pressure of Moscow and distributed weapons to the KGB's special reserve units. Johansons joined the Soviet secret service in 1972, and in March 1990 he was appointed as head of Latvia's KGB.