SHOW US THE MONEY: Lithuanian Foreign Affairs vice minister Algimantas Rimkunas traveled to Minsk to discuss Belarus' electricity debts to Lithuania. The debts were first discussed during a recent visit of Sergey Martynov, Belarus' first deputy minister of foreign affairs. He complained then about some problems concerning the schedule of debt payments. He and other officials have alleged that the cost for the supplied electricity was reduced from $80 million to $55 million, but Lithuanian officials said it was more than $60 million. Lithuania cut its electric power supplies to Belarus in June.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING ESTONIA: Estonia's population on Jan.1 was an estimated 1.44 million people, which is 7,000 people less than last year. According to the statistical office of Estonia, the population was 1.45 million people on Jan. 1, 1999 and 1.45 million people on Jan. 1, 1998. In 1997 and 1998, Estonia's population fell by more than 8,000 people. Natural growth in population, i.e. the difference between births and deaths, continued to be negative last year. In 1999, it was minus 6,000 people, in 1998 nearly minus 7,000 and in 1997, minus 6,000. Birthrates were up by 2 percent last year as compared to 1998, and the number of deaths fell by over 5 percent last year. The difference between the number of new immigrants and émigrés in the total change of population in 1999 was less than 10 percent which was a considerable drop[ compared to 1998 and 1997.
FORMER MAYOR CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ABUSE: The former chairman of the Valmiera County Council, Margeris Pastiljons, was charged with sexual abuse of minors on Jan. 20. The applicable article in the Criminal Code (Article 162) says that a person convicted of such a crime can be sentenced for up to five years in prison. Pastiljons has pleaded innocent. Valmiera District Court applied a two-month detention as a measure of precaution for him. State Criminal Police Chief Aloizs Blonskis said 10 counts have been specified against Pastiljons on sexual abuse of girls. Currently, the police are interviewing the children and their parents.
THE SKELE FACTOR: In evaluating the achievements of the government since coming to power six months ago, Prime Minister Andris Skele mentioned the "Skele factor," which indicates the country is coming through its economic crisis. Skele said Latvia is at the same position now as at the beginning of 1998, and that overall he is satisfied with the government's performance. The prime minister believes that the "Skele factor,"an index of industrial production volume, salaries, volume of cash in circulation, state budget and revenues, indicates that the "factor has began to work, the downslide has stopped." Skele stressed that the present government is the "smallest and the fastest" compared to previous ones, and the parties nominated their best ministers.
PRE-WWII LINKS BETWEEN ESTONIA AND MOSCOW: An Estonian historian is about to publish a book which will reveal ties between the country's pre-World War II president, Konstantin Pats, and communist Russia. Written by Magnus Ilmjarv, the book will expand on his revelations published in September about Pats' close connections with the Russians before staging a coup and becoming an autocrat in 1934. According to the historian, Pats coordinated his coup with the Russian embassy and worked closely with a Russian state oil syndicate which enjoyed monopoly rights for the sale of oil to Estonia. The book says Pats received $4,000 annually from the Russians between 1924 and 1934 for "consultancy," which had an obvious impact when Estonia lost independence to Moscow in 1940.