Latvija in brief - 2008-03-26

  • 2008-03-26
National Radio and Television Council head Abrams Kleckins publicly admitted on March 20 that he received a phone call from the government ordering him to censor a controversial documentary about Russian President Vladimir Putin which aired three months ago. "There was an order to take the film off the screen," Kleckins said in an interview with Dienas Bizness. The film aired a week after it was scheduled to, ostensibly due to technical difficulties but amid widespread rumors of Russian political pressure to postpone the airing until after the presidential elections. Former Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis denied any knowledge of the phone call.

The Supreme Court drastically cut the jail sentence for a Portuguese man convicted of sexually abusing minors. Sergio Luis Contreiras Viegas Guerreiro was originally found guilty of two other charges 's aggressive sexual assault and illegal confinement 's rulings which the Supreme Court overruled on March 25. The mans sentence was cut by four years to 22 months in prison, and his fine was cut from 10,000 lats (14,200 euros) to 3,000 lats. The man met a seven-year old girl and two boys, aged 12 and 14, near the Riga Central Railway Terminal in 2006 and solicited sex from them in exchange for money. He had sex with the children on the street near the market and numerous times at his flat.

A television set, a DVD player and 21 Ukrainian passports were stolen from a tour bus in the central Latvian town of Jelgava on March 25. The tour bus was parked in a yard next to the local Baptist Church and contained the passports of a Ukrainian choir which was performing at the service. The Ukrainians were staying with local Christian families. The Jelgava police department has opened a criminal investigation into the case and pledged to do everything in their power to help the Ukrainians return home.

A survey conducted by the TNS Latvia pollster found that 91 percent of Latvians celebrated Easter while as many as 98 percent celebrated the day in the predominantly Catholic regions of the country. Slightly over one third of correspondents went to a special church service on the Easter and nearly half chose to celebrate the day according to "old" Easter traditions. The most popular Easter tradition was egg painting, followed closely by egg fighting. Other popular traditions include riding on swings, a practice meant to keep summer mosquitoes away, and rolling eggs down a hill or ramp. 

Hundreds of people went to lay flowers at the foot of the Freedom Monument to honor the thousands of victims of the Soviet mass deportation to Siberia. About 150 participated in the afternoon march from the Occupation Museum in Riga's Old Town to the Freedom Monument. Several prominent politicians took part in the event, including President Valdis Zatlers, Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, Defense Minister Vinets Veldre and several Riga city councilmen. The event drew considerable interests from passing tourists.