Latvija in brief - 2007-06-20

  • 2007-06-20

A criminal procedure has been launched over the deaths of two employees of the Russian embassy after they crashed during a high-speed chase with police. On June 15, the two were traveling at 140 kilometers-per-hour in a 50 km/h zone near the town of Cesis. They were driving a private Ford Mondeo with diplomatic licence plates. When police began to chase them down, the two attempted to increase their speed, lost control of the car, and crashed into a tree. The Latvian Foreign Ministry has expressed regret at the incident, but pointed out that even diplomats should obey the rules of the road.

Janis Lagzdins, an MP from the ruling People's Party who was heavily criticized for making obscene gestures out of a parliament building window at a crowd of protesters immediately after the presidential elections, said in an interview with Neatkariga Rita Avize released on June 18 that he had meant the gesture as a bad joke. He noted that he thought the majority of the public understood the gesture's innocent intentions. He claimed to have been gesturing to an old friend outside who had just lost a bet over the outcome of the elections.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga received the Global Woman's Leadership Award on June 15 during her visit to Berlin. The award was presented during the Global Women's Summit 2007, in which ministers, parliament heads and businesswomen from 95 countries participated. In her reception speech, she talked about the long tradition of equal rights for women in Latvia, but also noted that things are still not as fair as they could be and that women hold a disproportionately low number of decision making positions. She went on to say that institutions could not achieve their full potential without giving equal rights to women and encouraged women everywhere to start businesses and work for positions of power.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks and Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis signed an inter-office agreement on June 19, allowing simplified border control for the citizens of third countries with European visas in transit through Latvia. The agreement allows citizens of a third country who have a visa or residence permit in the Schengen area, any of the new EU member states, Switzerland or Liechtenstein to cross into Latvian territory without a transit permit, even if they have no business in Latvia.

The annual report put out by Latvia's Prison Administration found that the number of "especially dangerous" criminals rose by 97 to reach a total of 870 inmates last year. The report also revealed that there are 470 people serving time in jail for drug related offenses, and 27 people who are considered "criminal bosses" and have been placed under special surveillance.