Off the wire

  • 2000-09-14

KOUTS NOMINATED FOR ARMY CHIEF: Following a meeting with parliamentary factions and the standing committee for national defense on Sept. 8, Estonian President Lennart Meri formally nominated Border Guard board director Rear Admiral Tarmo Kouts as candidate for the country's top military commander. The appointment may reach Parliament for formal approval in two to three weeks, earlier if handled as an urgent matter. Kouts has the political support necessary for his confirmation in the top military job.

CAR BOMB NEUTRALIZED: Latvian police together with the Omega anti-terrorist squad Sept. 11 afternoon destroyed an explosive device placed under a Mercedes Benz 300 in suburban Riga. The explosive contained some 400 grams of TNT and could be set off by remote, state police spokesman Krists Leiskalns said. The vehicle was located between a cafe and a residential house. The owner of the car called police at about 2:13 p.m. and reported a suspicious object under his car. The car belongs to a private individual who said he does not have any idea of somebody wanting to blow up his car.

PRIEST KILLER SENTENCED: The Vilnius Area Court announced on Sept. 11 the verdict in the murder case of a famous priest, poet and collector Ricardas Mikutavicius, sentencing the organizer of the crime, Vladas Beleckas, to life in prison. Ivan Kvaskov, 26, Arturas Daskovskis, 26, and Vladas Puodziunas, 22 will spend 20, 19 and 13 years in prison, respectively, for murdering Mikutavicius and stealing his valuable antique collection. Mikutavicius, a famous public activist, was murdered on July 1, 1998 in one of the most resounding assassinations in Lithuanian history.

MORE THAN 30 INJURED: Last weekend Latvia saw many road accidents with grave consequences. Over 30 persons were injured and several people died, the Latvian Interior Ministry press department reported to Sept. 11. In several accidents six or seven people sustained injuries at a time. Some of the drivers were drunk and a few hit-and-run cases were also registered. In the first eight months of this year the number of people killed or injured in road accidents has been significantly lower than in the same period 1999.

NEW AMBASSADORS: Three new ambassadors presented their credentials to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga Sept. 12, the president's press office reported. They are: The new Dutch ambassador to Latvia, Nicolaas Beets; the new Finnish ambassador, Kirsti Eskelinen-Liukkonen; and the new Swedish ambassador to Latvia, Tomas Bertilman.

RUSSIA NOT THREATENING: Russia is not threatening the Baltic states, acting commander of Russia's Baltic Fleet, Vice Admiral Vladimir Valuyev, said on Sept. 8. "As I know from all the secret and top secret messages, the Russian state cannot have any aggressive plans," he said. He said Russia's task now was to engage its own entire territory and provide the people living there with normal living conditions. Apart from sympathy with other countries, opening of borders, diplomatic and cultural exchanges and joint struggle against negative phenomena, there are no other intentions, Valuyev said.

NEEDS BRIGADES: Reform of the Estonian defense forces and the bid to become a member of NATO in the next few years needs a formation of three light infantry brigades, Prime Minister Mart Laar said, speaking in Parliament on Sept. 11. The NATO membership annual plan endorsed by the government stipulates the creation of an effective territorial command system and simultaneous formation of three light infantry brigades as a long-term aim in the development of the defense forces, Laar said answering questions in Parliament.

SUPPORTED BY CANADA: Canada supports the invitation of new members into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2002, according to Canadian Defense Minister Arthur Eggleton. He told officials in Vilnius that Canada is pro-enlargement, although some NATO members are cautious about accepting new members. Eggleton started his Baltic tour in Lithuania on Sept. 11, and will be in Estonia on Sept. 13 and 14.

POLISH ORGANIZATION APOLOGIZES: A Polish charity organization has expressed its regret that its charity campaign, aimed at helping Polish school children in eastern Lithuania, had upset Lithuanian people. During the last few days, an advertisement was placed on Polish radio, television and the press, urging people to help starving Polish children in Lithuania. The Lithuanian public was outraged by the campaign using pictures of allegedly starving children in Lithuania.