Latvija in brief - 2008-03-05

  • 2008-03-05
In a high-profile meeting between Latvian and Belarusian officials on Feb. 29, the two sides pledged further cooperation on social issues, particularly those surrounding social security benefits. Maira Mora, the Latvian Ambassador to Minsk, also said that she hoped there would be increased dialogue between the EU and Belarus. "We are very interested in dialogue between Belarus and the European Union and try to do everything possible so that it will take place," she said. The ambassador predicted that the two countries would share closer business ties in the future, as the Belarusian business environment is increasingly attractive for Latvian investors. 

The National Armed Forces (NAF) was stunned to discover two YouTube postings of Latvian troops in the Middle East under fire by insurgents. The videos were presumably taken in the Iraqi city of Divania, where Latvian troops were stationed up until last summer. The NAF has opened an investigation into the two videos, raising concerns that the material displayed on them may compromise the safety of Latvian troops. Neatkariga Rita Avize reported on March 4 that the videos show a unit taking heavy fire sometime around April 2007.

Police have apprehended five suspects for the murder of prominent Latvian businesswoman Ella Ivanova. Ivanova's bodyguard, Arvids Vilcans, who has spoken to the media about the murder, is reportedly among the detainees. Police have ruled out robbery as a motive for the assassination, and now predict that the murder was either related to her business practices or her private life. Two of the five suspects have been convicted of violent crimes in the past. Igors Ivanovs, Ivanova's husband, was also recently detained on separate charges.

Latvia has won the rights to organize the Women's European Basketball Championship in 2009, a right which Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis called a "high honor" for the country. Godmanis and George Vassilakopoulos, the head of FIBA Europe, signed the agreement on March 3. "I believe that you are ready for excellent championship," Vassilakopoulos said. Godmanis, meanwhile, said the decision to grant Latvia the rights to the tournament is an acknowledgement of the country's strong basketball history. The Championships will consist of 16 national teams 's Latvia is guaranteed a spot 's and will take place from June 7 to 20. The games will be played in Arena Riga, Ventspils, Valmiera and Liepaja.

In the latest in a long line of accusations and excuses, embattled Ventpils Mayor Aivars Lembergs has blamed the U.S. Embassy for his arrest and long-time detention. "The political implications have the primary role, it has an international coverage and the [former] U.S. ambassador to Latvia announced that she joined it," he said in an interview with the television channel LNT. He claimed that the judges understood that it they released him, the U.S. ambassador would become involved, which in turn would lead to the involvement of the president 's a prospect which ultimately kept the judges ruling against him. Lembergs is charged with bribery, extortion and a slew of other graft related offenses.