Off the wire

  • 2001-01-18
INVITATION TO NATO 2002: The next step in the NATO enlargement process should be inviting the three Baltic countries into the alliance, says Republican Jesse Helms, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington on Jan. 11, Helms stated that the 2002 NATO summit should invite Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the 19-member organization. "I intend to work with the Bush administration to ensure that the Baltic states are invited as members of the NATO alliance," said Helms, who resumes his post as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee when President-elect George W. Bush takes office Jan. 20.

HACKERS RAID PRESIDENCY: Unidentified computer hackers broke into the Latvian president's Internet home page ( on Jan. 11 or 12, leaving a red-colored inscription that read, "Hello from the home page of the chairwoman of the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR!" SSR of course stands for Soviet Socialist Republic. The words have been removed. Hacker attacks on WWW pages in Latvia began last February on the Web site for the popular men's magazine Klubs after an article critical of hackers appeared there.

NAZI SUSPECT FOUGHT NAZIS: During hearings in Vilnius into the case of suspected Nazi collaborator Kazys Gimzauskas, who is charged with war crimes, the court was taken by surprise when it heard testimony that he was secretly a partisan in the anti-Nazi resistance. Arunas Bubnys, senior fellow of the Institute of Lithuanian History, shocked the court by testifying that Gimzauskas, who had served as deputy chief of the Vilnius area Lithuanian security police under the Nazis during World War II, was at the same time secretly working for the underground anti-Nazi organization Kestutis. The historian said that Gimzauskas was chief of intelligence there, after analyzing archival documents at the court's request. The court has adjourned until Feb. 2.

RUSSIAN SUES ESTONIA: The leader of the Estonian Russian Citizens' Union and a pensioners' organization in the northeastern Estonian town of Sillamae, Esya Shur, is suing the Estonian state for 100,000 kroons ($6,042). The damages are for moral hurt connected with legal action against her. Shur and three colleagues were found guilty of organizing unsanctioned meetings on October 20, 1997. In November last year, Shur asked for financial assistance for her legal expenses from Russian President Vladimir Putin but has yet to receive a reply. Shur has asked the hearing to be postponed due to her ill health.

DENMARK CONFIRMS SUPPORT: Danish officials confirmed their country's support for Lithuanian NATO and European Union membership to Lithuania's Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis, during an official visit to Denmark. Valionis had meetings with Queen Margret II, Prime Minister Pol Nyrup Rasmussen and various ministers and officials. Valionis also read a speech at the Danish Foreign Policy Institute called "Lithuania's Position on the European Union's Northern Dimension Policy." Danish investment makes up 16.9 percent of all direct foreign investment in Lithuania. According to this indicator, Denmark is the largest foreign investor in the Lithuanian economy.

OSCE TO STAY: The standing council at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has resolved to extend for another six months the OSCE mission in Latvia, it was announced on Jan. 15. A previous six-month extension was given last June. Several Latvian and Estonian politicians have tentatively suggested that it is time to close the OSCE missions in both countries. Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh has supported these sentiments. But the organization feels that certain projects it runs with the Latvian government, particularly related to naturalization, should continue.

HOST FOR WAR GAMES: Lithuania is planning to host the international training session Amber Hope 2001 later this year, which should be attended by over 2,000 troops from 11 countries and civilian organizations. Amber Hope was first held in Lithuania in 1997. Held every two years, it was first a trilateral activity of Lithuanian, Danish and Polish armed forces. The 2001 war games will take place in Rukla and Pabrade training grounds between Aug. 28 and Sept. 6.

RADICALS TRY POLITICS: Members of the unregistered Lithuanian National Social Party have presented a new program, suggesting that the nationalist organization may be transformed into a far-right political force. The decision was taken at a meeting of leaders of the party in the Lithuanian town of Tytuvenai on Jan. 14. "We will be far-right radicals," barked the chairman of the party's reorganization committee, Alvydas Sveikauskas. The meeting was called to discuss the situation within the organization following the sudden recent resignation of its founder and leader, Mindaugas Murza. At the end of last year, Murza and about 100 of his supporters joined the Life's Logic Party, which has not been heard of since.

OPERA STAR QUITS VILNIUS: One of Lithuania's most famous opera singers, Virgilijus Noreika, has given up his work at the Lithuanian Music Academy for a similar position in Estonia starting this year. The 65-year-old crooner left the job he liked in Vilnius due to recently passed amendments to the Pension Law, which lower pensions for working pensioners. According to the daily Lietuvos Rytas, Noreika was paid 2,137 litas ($534) a month, including his pension, for an annual 900 hours. The new law cut the wages considerably. Noreika has taken a 12-day-a-month job as head of the Estonian Music Academy's Vocal Department.