Latvija in brief - 2008-01-30

  • 2008-01-30
The Vidzeme Regional Court handed down a 10 year jail sentence on Jan. 25 to former Interior Ministry employee Mihails Kondrasovs for the murder of two policemen while in detention in the northern town of Valmiera. In mid-2006, Kondrasovs was taken to an isolation cell for drunken disorderly conduct. When the two officers, one of whom was also drunk, went into the isolation cell to check on the detainee he pulled out a hidden weapon and shot both officers. Kondrasovs claimed in court that the officers had verbally and physically provoked him into the act.

Latvia's much loved ex-president Vaira Vike-Freiberga will air the first episode of her new TV show on Feb. 2. The show, titled "Mes Esam" (We Are), will air once at the beginning of each month following the "Panorama" news program. The show will discuss scientific and cultural issues 's deliberately avoiding politics. The first episode will be devoted to defining Latvia's identity, image and place in the world, and will feature special guest poet Mara Zalite. A spokeswoman for Vike-Freiberga said the first show would be aimed at improving Latvian self-confidence.

A flu epidemic has broken out in Latvia with 153 cases per 1,000 people registered on Jan. 29, a number which is expected to rise in coming weeks. The epidemic has so far affected 16 of the 27 EU member states. Over the course of the week prior to Jan. 29, 85 patients were admitted to hospitals with flu symptoms, which have resulted in two patients being treated for flu-related complications. The Aizkraukle, Aluksne, Daugavpils, Jelgava, Preili, Riga and Tukums regions were hit the hardest. Children under 15 have been most susceptible to the disease, while in many cases people 65 and over have already built immunities.

A poll by Latvijas Fakti carried out earlier this month found that the leftist Harmony Center is the most popular party in Latvia, boasting support from 11.2 percent of respondents. Only four parties managed to clear the 5 percent mark required for parliamentary membership during elections 's Harmony Center, the Greens and Farmers Union with 7.7 percent, the opposition New Era with 7.3 percent and the People's Party with 6.5 percent. Latvijas Fakti director Aigars Freimanis said though Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis' LPP/LC party was unable to clear 5 percent they will most likely be able to win seats in the next parliament due to their rising popularity. 

National Police chief Aldis Lieljuksis expressed his concern over the growing number of drug related crimes on Jan. 25. The police chief said the number of crimes has been steadily growing since 1991, reaching 1,470 last year. Criminal Police Chief Dailis Luks, meanwhile, said fighting drug related crime is an "absolute priority of the department this year." In 2007, police confiscated 74.6 kilograms of poppy straws, 1.7 kilograms of heroin, 17.9 kilograms of amphetamines and methamphetamines, 52 kilograms of marijuana, about 103,000 ecstasy pills and nearly 12 kilograms of cocaine.