Film director Arunas Matelis, who recently earned an award from the Director's Guild of America for his movie about children suffering from cancer, was named the best contributor to Lithuania's image in the world last year. Matelis was awarded the main LT Identity award on Feb. 19. "I accept this as a movie victory, as a victory of my teachers, colleagues who worked in the Soviet era to form a unique school of documentaries," Matelis said during the ceremony. Matelis' documentary Before Flying Back became the most-viewed Lithuanian film in the world. In 2006, it was shown in more than 10 countries worldwide, earning several prizes in various nations.
Career diplomat Kestutis Kudzamanas has been appointed Lithuania's first ambassador to Azerbaijan. President Valdas Adamkus on Feb. 19 signed a decree on Kudzmanas' appointment. He is to assume his duties on March 15. Kudzmanas, who earlier worked as assistant minister at the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow, has been deported from Russia on the grounds of alleged espionage. He currently works as ambassador for special assignments in the foreign ministry's Eastern Europe and Central Asia Department.
Seven out of twelve Lithuanian members of the European Parliament supported the recent report condemning secret transportation of prisoners by the US Central Intelligence Agency and accusing European governments of putting up with the practice and concealing it. The United States has admitted covert rendering of terrorists to third countries yet has denied that they were tortured or handed over to countries that might torture them. The European Parliament's report states that it condemns the transportation or rendering of apprehended persons as an illegal measure used by the United States in combating terrorism.
A staggering 21 percent of Lithuanians live under the poverty threshold, a study released by the European Commission has shown. It is the highest percentage in all the European Union, where an average of 16 percent of people live below the poverty line. The survey, conducted in 2004, defined the poverty threshold as 60 percent of the average income of the country. The survey also showed that Lithuanian men have the lowest average life span in the EU 's 65.4 years. The highest life span for men, 78.4 years, was found in Sweden.
Lithuanian citizen Yury Kadamov became the first member of the new wave of Lithuanian emigrants to be sentenced to death by a US court. A Los Angeles jury recently found the 41-year-old Vilnius resident and his Russian accomplice Yury Mikhael guilty of forming a gang that would kidnap and murder rich people for ransom, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported. The police have found that the gang had killed five people and claimed a total of some 1.3 million U.S. dollars in ransom from the relatives of the victims. Kadamov is to be executed by lethal injection, however, he has the right to appeal the court's decision.