Latvija in brief - 2010-10-21

  • 2010-10-20

Last week Saeima voted in favor of extending Latvia’s participation in the international security assistance operation in Afghanistan. It is important for Latvian soldiers serving in Afghanistan to feel the support of Saeima, Foreign Minister Aivis Ronis believes. 64 deputies voted in favor of continued Latvian participation in the NATO-led mission, with 16 voting against.  The previous mandate for the operation expired on October 13. The Saeima’s Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee also supported extending Latvia’s mission in Afghanistan. It is planned that the number of Latvian troops serving in Afghanistan next year will remain unchanged at 175.  12.1 million lats (17.2 million euros) will be spent from the Defense Ministry’s budget to ensure the Latvian mission in 2011. As reported, four Latvian soldiers have been killed in action whilst serving in Afghanistan.

In relation to talks between the Riga International Airport and the national airline airBaltic, the airport is still hoping for an out-of-court settlement, as the airport’s board member, Janis Kuzulis, told the business portal AirBaltic continues to make advance payments for the airport’s services, whereas the conditions of the airport’s out-of-court settlement offer still remain valid, said Kuzulis. Nevertheless, the airport still wants the dispute to end. No deadline has been set for reaching a settlement, but the sooner this happens, the better, he said. Riga Airport wants airBaltic to pay a debt of almost 3.4 million lats (4.8 million euros), whereas the airline has filed an almost 6 million lat lawsuit against the airport over unfair competition practices. Earlier this month, the airport said that it would stop servicing airBaltic unless the airline starts making advance payments for the airport’s services.

The “Sabre Strike 2011” military exercise has begun at Adazi Military Base, where representatives from land and air forces from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and the United States will be participating. The training exercise is being carried out with a view to prepare forces for operations in Afghanistan,  and is the largest such exercise since Latvia joined NATO in 2004, with Latvia contributing 250,000 lats (355,700 euros) to its organization and the United States contributing several million dollars, announced Defense Minister Imants Liegis (Civic Union). Both Liegis and the National Armed Forces Commander Major General Raimonds Graube stressed the significance of the exercise in improving cooperation with the armed forces of Latvia’s allies. “It is also very important to test the interoperability of Latvia’s armed forces with those of other countries,” stressed Liegis. The exercise will take place from Oct. 18-31 on the territory of the Adazi Military Base and the surrounding area. In total more than 1,700 troops will be participating.

Prosecutors are demanding a nine-year prison sentence for a defendant who masterminded the smuggling of nearly 100 Iraqi and Afghan nationals into Finland through Russia, Latvia and Estonia, Finland’s national television YLE reports. Court proceedings in the case began at the Helsinki District Court on Monday. The Afghans and Iraqis have applied for asylum; each person has paid smugglers approximately 8,000 euros. A Moscow-run criminal gang was behind the smuggling operation taking place between 2008 and 2009, according to a preliminary investigation by the police. Prosecutors also demand that the defendant forfeit some 600,000 euros gained from illegal activities to the state. An international arrest warrant has been issued for the head of the gang, however, authorities have not yet succeeded in tracking him down.