Off the wire

  • 2001-04-26
NATIONAL HEALTH: War veterans who fought on the Soviet side in World War II and are now residing in the Baltic states will soon be able to receive free medical care in Russia, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported on April 24. This was a decision made by Russia's Ministry of Health Care in cooperation with the country's Obligatory Health Insurance Fund. According to the ministry, if war veterans from the Baltics find themselves "in sudden need of medical assistance" while in Russia, they will receive free medical services in any Russian public medical institution to the same extent as the services are available to Russian war veterans. In order to receive these services, veterans will have to produce an identification document as well as a certificate confirming their status as wartime participants, veterans or persons disabled as a result of the war.

GHETTO - THE MOVIE: Lithuanian filmmakers are preparing to shoot a movie about the Vilnius ghetto theater based on the world famous play The Ghetto by Joshua Sobolio. The movie, directed by the young film artist Audrius Juzenas, will tell the story of the ghetto theater established in Vilnius under the Nazi occupation during World War II, which became a center for artistic, cultural and spiritual resistance in the Vilnius Jewish quarter. The professional theater was opened in the Vilna ghetto shortly after the start of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of over 50,000 people out of Vilnius' 70,000-strong Jewish community. The first theatrical performance took place on January 18, 1942, in spite of vigorous protests on the side of Jewish intellectuals, political and party figures. A total of 111 plays were performed on the stage of the ghetto theater during the first year, with 34,804 tickets sold to the performances. Over 70,000 tickets were sold until the ghetto theater's closure on October 20, 1943.

TOUGH CRITICS: Twenty-six Estonian social scientists have made a strongly-worded public statement expressing concern for the country's development and criticizing the country's politicians. "Estonian society has come to a political, social and ethical crisis. Power has become alienated from the people to such an extent that we should already be speaking about two different Estonias," the social scientists said. They declared that two in every three Estonian children live in poverty, people lack elementary security and many young people are desperate to leave the country. Self-centered and unethical politics have become commonplace, and the notion of responsibility has become blurred. Economic and strategic decisions important for the state are being made without any analysis of the social consequences, the social scientists said. The poorly managed railway privatization showed that the people have been reduced to an "Aunt Maali", whose opinion is ignored even on issues that immediately concern her, they said.

NURSES ACT: The Latvian trade union of medical nurses, tired of the low pay and government's indecisiveness, resolved on April 24 to hold a one-day strike on July 5. The trade union's deputy chairwoman, Ija Rudzite, said that about 6,000 medics were likely to go on strike. Latvian nurses have asked the government for a 25 lat ($40) increase in their salaries. To meet their demands, some 4 million lats would be needed this year alone. The government reviewed the pay rise for several weeks without much success, and ordered the Finance Ministry to come up with ideas for raising half the sum within a month. Since Jan. 1, 2001, Latvian medical nurses have demanded that their monthly salary reach 150 lats. Prime minister Andris Berzins believes the government has done everything possible to settle the problem of nurses' pay.

COMPENSATION DEMAND: The Latvian Maritime Environment Administration has sent a letter to Mazeikiu Nafta, the owners of Lithuania's Butinge oil terminal, requesting compensation for damage to the Latvian coastline caused by an oil spillage in March. Administration official Felikss Klagiss said on April 25 that Latvia wants 62,200 lats ($99,000) in compensation - 640 lats to cover the cost of monitoring the spill from the air, 60 lats for the cost of collecting samples and the remainder for environmental damage. The accident occurred during loading of Norwegian-registered tanker North Pacific in stormy conditions. The amount of oil spilled is disputed, with the Lithuanian side estimating 300 kilograms and Latvian experts estimating between 3 and 4 tons.

FUEL ESCAPE: The State Prosecutor's Office ruled on April 20 that it would not start criminal proceedings over the activity of Economics Minister Mihkel Parnoja in regulating the fuel market, measures which are being sought by MPs from the opposition Center Party faction. An application delivered to the Chief Prosecutor's Office by MPs Koit Pikaro and Harri Ounapuu on April 10 cited the economics minister's allegedly dubious activity in the regulation of the fuel market. The Center Party's move followed revelations that a regulation by the economics minister had set the maximum acidity limit for motor fuel at too high a level. This gave fraudsters free hands to use acid to remove a special dyeing agent added to light heating oil and sell the oil as diesel.

PEOPLE DROP: Data from the recently conducted Lithuanian census shows that the population has decreased in Lithuania's largest cities. The total Lithuanian population has decreased by 5 percent since the last census 12 years ago. A population of 3.496 million was counted last week. Since 1989, the population of Kaunas and Siauliai have decreased by 9 percent. Kaunas now has 379,000 permanent residents, while 133,000 were counted in Siauliai. The numbers of Vilnius, Klaipeda and Panevezys residents have decreased by 4 percent. These cities now have populations of 553,000, 194,000 and 122,000, respectively. But Lithuania has a slower tempo of population decrease than Latvia and Estonia. Since 1989, the Latvian population has decreased by 11 percent, while that of Estonia has decreased by 13 percent.