Latvija in brief - 2007-01-24

  • 2007-01-24
Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said during a visit to Latvia that Sweden supports Latvia's ruling People's Party proposal to sign the Latvian-Russian border treaty. Bildt noted that Sweden recognized Latvia's sovereignty after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and "accepted its border as it was then," indicating that Abrene was not included in Latvia's territory. The Latvian-Russian border treaty, which has remained unsigned for years, was scheduled to be signed in May 2005, but shortly before the Latvian government adopted a unilateral explanatory declaration to the treaty. The declaration contained a reference to the 1920 Latvian-Russian Peace Treaty under which Abrene County (now Pytalovo) belongs to Latvia.

Members of a Christian congregation in Ukraine staged a picket outside the Latvian Embassy in Kiev on Jan. 22 demanding a public apology from Latvian daily Diena for publishing a caricature of Jesus Christ in its January 16 issue, an embassy official said. According to embassy representative Zandis Rasa, the picket lasted for about 35 minutes and was joined by some 50 people. Four Ukrainian police officers arrived at the Latvian embassy to help security guards keep public order. Christians from the New Generation congregation said that the cartoons in Diena were an incitement to religious hatred. They showed their indignation over the caricatures by holding banners that read: "No to Jesus Caricatures!" and "Stop the Blasphemy!"

The Justice Ministry proposed amending the regulations combatting the sale of illegal alcohol on Jan. 23. The task force, headed by Justice Minister Gaidis Berzins, proposed stringent new laws to crack down on the production, distribution, sale and consumption of illegal alcohol. The ministry also said that a definition of illegal alcohol should be introduced. Some 3,303 cases of poisoning from illegal alcohol were registered at the Latvian toxicology center between Jan.-Nov. 2006, although doctors point out that the actual number of such incidents is far higher. Last year a state of emergency was declared in the eastern Latvian county of Preili due to mass poisoning from illegal alcohol containing medical disinfectant. As many as 70 people have died from illegal alcohol in Latvia since September last year.

Latvia has officially written to Belarus about an act of vandalism to the Latvian Embassy in Minsk on Jan. 22, according to the Latvian Foreign Ministry press service. Two bottles filled with black paint were smashed against the embassy wall and flyers with the National Bolsheviks symbol were scattered around. Latvia has requested that the culprits be found and that embassy security be improved to prevent such acts in the future.

Some 640,849 people went to see plays staged by Latvian theaters last year. The most popular was the Latvian National Theater, which attracted 160,000 spectators, while the Daile Theater attracted 140,964 spectators. The third most popular venue was the Russian Drama Theater, which boasted 83,771 spectators.