Off the wire

  • 2001-03-22
BEAT THE CLOCK: The Latvian Economics Ministry issued reminders that clocks should be switched one hour forward at 3 a.m. on March 25 as Latvia transfers to summer time. Kaspars Paupe said the transfer to summer time is to be done on the last Sunday of March, when clocks at 3 a.m. are turned one hour forward. At 4 a.m. on the last Sunday in October, the clocks will be switched one hour back. Last year Latvia, like its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania, did not transfer to summer time, but the government decided to return to summer time this spring after numerous complaints from residents and officials. As a result, this summer Latvia will have an hour's time difference with Lithuania and Estonia, which will not be tampering with the clocks. The switch is supported by both President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins.

KALININGRAD PLAN: Lithuanian parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas has proposed holding a trilateral meeting between the leaders of the Lithuania, Polish and Russian parliaments to discuss the prospects for Kaliningrad in light of European Union expansion. Paulauskas announced his idea March 15 in Warsaw when he met with the marshal of the Polish lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, Maciej Plazynski. The Lithuanian parliamentary chairman said the Kaliningrad region could become the Achilles heel in an expanding EU. Plazyinski responded favorably to the Lithuanian chairman's proposal and said he would bring it up with the chairman of the Russian Duma during his upcoming visit in Warsaw.

RAINIAI CASE: The Siauliai Area Court in northern Lithuania began hearings March 20 into the case against Soviet NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) officer Petras Raslanas, charged with committing genocide against Lithuanian citizens. The court began trying the case in absentia. Raslanas currently lives in Russia, where he has citizenship. With confirmation from Russian law enforcement institutions that the 87-year-old suspect, a resident of the village of Balashikhi near Moscow, had been notified of charges against him, judges decided to go ahead with the trial. The case has been held up since 1999 because it lacked this confirmation. A former high Soviet state security official, Raslanas is charged with organizing and carrying out the 1941 massacre of 76 civilians in a forest near Rainiai, not far from Siauliai. The case is made up of ten volumes of material, and 27 witnesses and 17 victims are summoned to testify.

TIME OF CRIME: Certain types of crime and also overall crime figures have sharply increased in Estonia, a Crime Prevention Council meeting in Tallinn concluded on March 15. In the course of their discussion, members of the council found that while in 1999 there were 3,555 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, in 2000 there were 4,016. A total of 57,799 crimes were registered last year. The number of cases of metal theft increased six-fold, drug-related offenses by 5.3 times, theft from institutions by a third, timber theft by 20 percent. Traffic-related offenses have shot up by 92 percent. The council decided to submit to the government a crime summary for last year.

BALTIC BASES: Estonia may permit NATO to build military bases on its territory after the country enters the Alliance, Estonian defense forces commander-in-chief Rear Adm. Tarmo Kouts said in an interview with the influential Polish newspaper Zycie Warszawya March 17. Kouts said Estonia hoped for NATO's help in security matters and in ensuring the country's independence. He also said Estonia is ready to take part in the Alliance's operations. Commenting on Russian politicians' statements that entry of the Baltic states into NATO could lead to a deterioration in their relations with Russia, Kouts countered that similar fears had been expressed before the accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to the Alliance. Kouts said life has shown that relations between the three countries and Russia has only got better since their admission to NATO.

RIGA DEALS: The Social Democrats, who won the local elections in Riga last week, unexpectedly signed a cooperation agreement on March 16 with the Prosperity Party, which won two seats on the city council. The Social Democrats, who won 14 seats on the 60-strong Riga City Council, claim they have also reached agreements on cooperation with the Latvian Democratic Party, the Latvian Farmers Union and the Latvian Green Party, and the time for signing agreements with these parties is only a "technical matter." Social Democrat member Janis Dinevics explained the party wants to gather nine votes from smaller parties and attract to the coalition the conservative Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK Party (11 seats), then it would have 34 votes on the council Ð a majority. The Christian Democratic Party and New Christian Party would not be attracted to the union.

CRASH DIET: A Latvian woman has started a hunger strike, allegedly to protest the outcome of local elections in her home district, Zalenieki, in the central Latvian county of Jelgava. Zalenieki district council chairman, Ojars Briedis, said March 16 it was not clear what the woman was actually protesting against. "First she said she's protesting against the rule of Red barons (ex-Soviet apparatchiks), then she says she's against the election law and the election of Mr. Janis Kaptjuhs to the district council," Briedis said. The woman had told the district council chairman before the elections that she would go on strike if Kaptjuhs was elected because she and the council member had had a dispute over property after the liquidation of the local Soviet collective farm. The elderly woman is a disabled person of Group 2 (medium degree disability), so Briedis has asked local medics to keep an eye on her.