JAIL SENTENCE FOR NEGLIGENCE: Four organizers of the tragic car race in Madona, Latvia, in June, 1999 got sentenced to jail terms from 2 to 3.5 years Nov. 6. The first instance court stated that the convicts failed to observe the requirements of the Latvian Auto Sports Federation's race code, and the security zone between the spectators and the racecourse was too narrow. During the race, vehicles smashed into the crowd killing eight and injuring 20 people.
ONE MORE TV CHANNEL IN LATVIA: The National Radio and Television Council decided Nov. 3 to announce a tender for establishing another nationwide commercial television channel. Applications for the tender will be accepted until Dec. 11, and the tender results are expected to be announced March 11. The winner will have to make sure that 85 percent of Latvia's territory is covered in the second year of broadcasting.
NEVSKY CATHEDRAL FOR RENT: Tallinn's political power bloc declared at talks with its new partner, the Russian-speaking People's Choice party, that it is ready to rent out the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Tallinn's Toompea to its Russian Orthodox congregation. The cathedral is owned by the city. The rental term will reportedly be 99 years.
LATVIA, BRITAIN TO COOPERATE ON CRIME: A Latvian-British memorandum to cooperate in criminal investigations was signed Nov. 3 in Riga. It includes cooperation in the investigation of organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.
KOSOVO PEACEKEEPER TO COME: Col. Leonardo Leso, head of NATO's K-FOR multinational specialized unit in Kosovo, arrived in Estonia in a get-acquainted visit from Nov. 6 to Nov. 10. Leso will visit the peacekeeping operations center in Paldiski, the defense forces' integrated war college in Tartu, and the headquarters of the paramilitary defense league. In Paldiski, the chief of the Kosovo peacekeepers will familiarize himself with pre-mission training of ESTPATROL-3, a group of Estonian military police. ESTPATROL-2, a 20-strong multi-purpose military police unit, is currently serving under Leso in Kosovo.
RUSSIA TO FUND TEACHERS: The Russian government has pledged 6.5 million rubles ($256,000) under its expatriates program for the ongoing training of teachers of Russian working in the Baltic countries. The money will be transferred to the St. Petersburg Pedagogical University, where 35 teachers of Russian from Estonia, 25 from Lithuania and 40 from Latvia will attend.
UNIFORMS PUNISHED: Commander of the Vilnius county riflemen unit has imposed heavy penalties on three riflemen who disobeyed his orders and wore their uniforms at the funeral of war-crimes suspect Aleksandras Lileikis at the end of September, the tabloid Lietuvos Zinios said. The three riflemen received severe reprimands for what the head of the riflemen organization, retired Major Vytautas Gestautas, said was a "violation of the wearing of the uniform." Lileikis, a former U.S. citizen who was stripped of his passport for concealing his war-time activities, was charged with handing over 75 Jews to Nazi death squads while the head of a unit of Nazi-sponsored regional security police during World War II.
TWO PRISONS MERGE: Estonian Justice Ministry will merge the two men's prisons of Murru and Rummu into one huge correctional facility for more than 2,000 inmates by Jan. 1, 2001. Estonia's largest prison Murru at the moment has 1,500 inmates and Rummu slightly over 500. The merger will help to cut costs and rise the notoriously low salaries of prison guards, officials said.
POPULATION DECREASE: As of March 31, 2000, there were 2,375,300 inhabitants in Latvia, which is 10.9 percent less than in 1989 when the previous census was conducted. The number of residents in Latvia's cities and towns has dropped 13.5 percent, and 5.1 percent in rural areas. There were 1.28 million women and 1.09 million men in Latvia as of March 31, this year. The proportion of Latvians has increased to 57.6 percent from 52 percent in 1989, while the proportion of Russians has decreased from 34 percent to 29.6 percent. The census was carried out by the Central Statistical Bureau between March 31 and April 29.