Baltics in Brief

  • 2000-02-17
CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF, FINALLY: The Lithuanian Airlines 737 held in London's Heathrow for back debts to a flight control company was released Feb. 11. "It is not quite clear when our plane would be back in Vilnius," said LAL Director Romualdas Gegznas. "This will depend on the Heathrow airport dispatchers when to give the permission to take off." He said that a Lithuania crew departed from Vilnius to London on Feb. 11 and will take back the plane home. After the plane's detention in London, LAL covered the major part of its debts to Eurocontrol for navigation services. Unofficial sources said the sum was upwards of half a million euros. The arrest of a plane for debts is very rare sanction, but an LAL plane was also detained last year.

ESTONIANS CALL THEM VINTAGE: The number of registered vehicles in Estonia remained at about 580,000 as of Feb. 1, according to the Estonian Car Licensing Center, most of which are older than a free Estonia. That number has remained unchanged in recent years. About 542,520 were cars and trucks, while the rest were motorcycles. Four of five cars were 10 years old or older, according to the center. Of the new cars register in January, Volkswagen was the most popular with 101 vehicles of the make licensed in January. Volkswagen was followed in popularity by Ford, Opel and Nissan. Tallinn has 182,583 licensed vehicles, followed by Tartu's 52,369.

DUMA GOES TO BAT FOR PILOTS: The Russian State Duma on Feb. 9 adopted an appeal calling on India's president and parliament to show mercy on the ethnic Russian pilots from Latvia sentenced last month to life in prison for arms smuggling. In its statement, the Duma expressed hope the Indian president and the parliament's leadership would not only take measures to make the pilot's imprisonment easier but also promote their return to their native land. The Indian court found the pilots guilty over dropping a cargo of weapons from their An-26 plane over West Bengal state in India in December 1995. Four of the five pilots were granted Russia's citizenship during their imprisonment in India. Russia is currently processing a citizenship request for the fifth.

MOONSHINE? WHAT MOONSHINE?: Police in Lithuania's organized crime investigation service under police closed down a moonshine operation in Vilnius Feb. 11. Police reportedly found the operation in a residential courtyard on Rinktines Street in Lithuania's capital. Among those detained were three men whose cars contained 16 plastic 10-liter vessels with labels reading "Alcohol Royal". In another car police found 11 plastic vessels containing 96 percent ethyl alcohol. They also discovered bottling equipment, a large quantity of cigarettes and pistols in a metal garage and kiosk rented by one of the men in the same courtyard. The organized crime investigation division said they had information that the seized men belonged to an underground gang involved in sales of smuggled spirits and moonshine vodka. They are believed to be suppliers of spirits, bottles, labels, corks and bottling equipment to moonshine producers.

PAAL GETS 10 YEARS: An Estonian court in the northeastern city of Narva Feb. 10 sentenced Aleksei Paal to 10 years in prison for the murder of his father Anatoli Paal, a well-known regional politician and chairman of the board of Narva Elektrijaamad (Narva Power Stations) last summer.The prosecution asked for a 12-year sentence for Aleksei Paal, 22, while the defense argued he should have been acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Police say Paal confessed to the killing during a pre-trial investigation, but categorically denied the accusations in court, saying he had found his father dead in their home at 6 a.m last June, a local newspaper reported. Paal retracted the confession, saying he had made it under pressure. He claimed investigators had threatened to place his mother under arrest if he didn't confess to the murder. According to the indictment, Paal killed his father during a quarrel. He allegedly committed the murder by striking his father several times on the back of the head with a hammer. In his initial confession, the defendant said he had wanted his father to grant a lucrative contract for the replacement of boilers at the power plants to a businessman he knew who had promised him a good job at his company in return for the deal. The quarrel allegedly started after the father refused, saying it was time for the son to start living his own life. The defense has 10 days to appeal the sentence.