A FOND FAREWELL FROM ESTONIA: Estonian President Lennart Meri on Feb. 21 sent a letter to Vladimir Putin, the Acting President of the Russian Federation, and expressed his sincere condolences on the occasion of the untimely death of Russian politician Anatoly Sobchak. "With his death, Russia has lost a world-class politician, whose eyes were always looking into the future," wrote Meri. "It is sad getting used to the thought that Estonia has lost a good friend, who understood our wish to restore our position in Europe and develop economic and cultural relations based on equality of rights and mutual respect with Russia." Sobchak, former mayor of St. Petersburg, died of a heart attack in Kaliningrad on Feb. 20, while making preparations for Putin's presidential campaign.
LITHUANIA GETS "IN THE MOOD": The director of Lithuanian pharmacy department Gintautas Viskaitis said the strict rules for sales of Viagra, a remedy curing sexual potency problems, would be loosened. The official maintained that specialists of local health care institutions had gained experience in prescribing Viagra for their patients. The director stated that no reports about some possible side-effects of this preparation had been received so the tightened sales regulations would be softened. In 1998, the Lithuanian health ministry issued a special document "on trade in Viagra" which recommended pharmacists to store Viagra prescriptions for one year. From now on, this regulation is to be invalidated.
PLAYING BROKEN TELEPHONE: The monopolistic fixed-line telephone operator Eesti Telefon and transport and communications minister Toivo Jurgenson on Monday failed to reach an agreement on new tariffs. The government is demanding that Eesti Telefon should present a thorough ten-year business plan but Eesti Telefon refers to the new status of its parent company Eesti Telekom as a public firm, meaning that the plan should also be revealed to other stockholders and would be harmful for the company's interests. Eesti Telefon initially planned to hike tariffs on March 1 to unify the tariffs of business and individual clients before 2001 when the telecommunications market is opened. Eesti Telefon intends to rise the prices of domestic calls by 10-20 percent. International call charges would fall four times. Raul Kalev, PR manager of Eesti Telekom, said that Eesti Telefon does not intend to hike tariffs unilaterally without ministry approval.
CUSTOMS OFFICERS ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT: Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Bureau officers have detained two Riga Customs employees on February 18 for dereliction of duty, which has resulted in a loss of 40,818 lats ($68,950) to the state. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the arrested are Janis O. (born 1970) and Juris S. (born 1972). Riga Customs Chief Andis Drulle said that possibly more than two persons are involved in the case. He said that the suspects will not be dismissed while the investigation is under way. Last week, a former customs official, Maris Z (born 1970) was also detained for the same violation and was put in jail.
PROTESTING LATVIA'S "POLITICAL PRISONER": About 50 people rallied at the Latvian Embassy in Moscow on Feb. 21 demanding Latvia release the convicted former Red guerrilla and World War II veteran Vasilijs Kononovs, according to Vilmars Henins, the embassy's first secretary. Henins said that the protesters have submitted a statement to the embassy on Kononovs' release. The statement also pushes blame onto the Russian government and ex-President Boris Yeltsin for Kononovs' fate. Henins said that this is not the first time that such a meeting is being held at the embassy.