Latvija in brief - 2010-12-16

  • 2010-12-15

The three Latvian helicopter pilots released by Sudanese kidnappers last week have returned home to Latvia, reports LETA. The three Latvian citizens, who were kidnapped in Sudan’s troubled region of Darfur more than a month ago, were released on Dec. 8, said World Food Program spokesman in Sudan Amor Almagro. The UN World Food Program (WFP) said that it had been working tirelessly together with the governments of Sudan and Latvia to have the three Latvian citizens freed, and is now very happy that this has finally happened. The Latvian government had entrusted the release of the hostages to the WFP, and previously said that Latvia, same as the UN, would not offer ransom for the three Latvian citizens. The Foreign Ministry said that no ransom had been paid for their release. Initially, the condition of the three men was described as good, but later the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that their condition was “stable and satisfactory.” The three are employees of the Latvian helicopter company GM Helicopters, which is currently operating in Sudan as part of the United Nations’ World Food Program.

The Saeima Social and Labor Affairs Committee decided on Dec. 10 to draw up proposals for the indexing of small pensions next year, reports LETA. According to the Welfare Ministry’s data, 32 percent of pensioners in Latvia have monthly pensions of 135 lats (192.80 euros) or less (excluding supplemental benefits). Indexing such pensions next October would require allocation of an extra 400,000 lats from the 2011 state budget. Another proposal that the committee will be looking at is to reduce supplemental benefits for pensioners who receive large pensions. This could affect pensioners whose monthly pensions are 450 lats or more - which make up 1.3 percent of all pensioners in Latvia - as well as pensioners with pensions of 1,000 lats and more, who could have supplemental benefits cut altogether.

More than 100 businessmen will accompany President Valdis Zatlers on his visit to Russia next week, which is the largest business delegation ever to accompany the president on a foreign visit, Latvian Investment and Development Agency spokeswoman Vineta Vilistere-Lace told LETA. Although the composition of the delegation has not been finalized yet, the total number of delegation members should exceed a hundred, said Vilistere-Lace. It is already clear that this will be the largest-ever business delegation to accompany the president on a state visit, she said. Applications from the businessmen were accepted until last Friday; the list is now being finalized, said Vilistere-Lace. Zatlers will be visiting Russia from Dec. 19 to Dec. 22. Three priorities have been set for Zatlers’ visit - political dialogue with the Russian government, development of economic relations and strengthening the basis of Latvia-Russia agreements.