Latvija in brief - 2007-07-18

  • 2007-07-18
An 1,800 meter long illegal pipeline attachment was found on the Polotsk-Ventspils oil pipeline on July 16. The attachment was found tapping into the pipeline with the aid of a portable gas pump near the town of Pilsrundale, the state police press service reported. A tank full of diesel fuel was also found at the scene. This was the second time in less than two weeks that damage was found on that part of the pipeline. Another intentionally caused defect was found approximately 20 kilometers down the line. Police have launched a criminal investigation but no arrests have been made.

Prominent ambassador and former Welfare Minister Janis Ritenis died on July 13 at the age of 82. Ritenis spent most of his life in exile in Australia. Before returning to Latvia he became a prominent fighter for Latvian independence from the Soviet Union, heading the information bureau of the World Federation of Free Latvians until 1990. He then established a representative office and eventually became the first ambassador to Denmark. In a statement issued shortly after Ritenis' death, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks praised the diplomat, saying that his "investment is among those that in a very short time allowed the renewal of a fully functioning, professional foreign service."

In response to a series of incidents involving foreigners in Riga 's mostly British nationals 's urinating on the city's Freedom Monument, the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK nationalist alliance has proposed a higher fine for those caught in that act. Riga Mayor Janis Birks noted that currently the fine for urinating on the statue is the same as it would be for urinating on a barn. The mayor said that the amount of the new fine has not yet been decided.

Truckers in eastern Latvia staged a protest on July 16 against the inordinately long lines at the Russian border. The protesting truckers blocked the road for two hours. Truckers often must wait four or five days to get through the border, due mostly to the slow pace of Russian and Latvian border guards in processing the trucks. Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis had initially threatened the protesters with "vigorous" police action, but eventually decided on a 20 lat (28 euro) fine for each participant in the protest.

Four Romanian nationals and a Latvian citizen were detained on July 16 on suspicion of counterfeiting electronic bank cards. They were allegedly installing devices in ATM machines to steal information from bank cards, which they would then recreate to take money from another machine. The equipment they used included devices for reading and recording bankcard data, false keyboards and video cameras to capture PIN codes. A criminal investigation has been launched for repeated illegal activities with financial instruments in an organized group, a charge carrying a sentence of five to 15 years in jail.