Off the wire

  • 2000-07-20
NEW PARTY IN LITHUANIA: The Lithuanian Ministry of Justice has officially registered the Union of Moderate Conservatives, the 40th political party in the country. The Union was founded by the supporters of the former Prime Minister Gediminas Vagnorius. Following the president's public declaration in 1999 that he had no confidence in the then prime minister, Vagnorius resigned in spite of the fact that he was given a vote of confidence by Parliament. This year Vagnorius and his supporters were expelled from the Conservative Party for leveling criticism at the Andrius Kubilius-led conservative government.

HIV AND AIDS ON THE RISE: By July 15 there were 700 registered HIV infected persons in Latvia and around 30 percent of them were discovered this year. AIDS Prevention Center specialist Iveta Dievberna said July 17 that 208 new HIV infected persons have been uncovered this year, and that 13 of them have full-blown AIDS. Last year during the first six months, 105 new HIV-infected and six AIDS patients were registered. Most of the HIV and AIDS infected are users of intravenous drugs. There are also registered 83 homosexuals and bisexuals HIV and AIDS infected persons and 77 persons who have been infected during heterosexual contacts.

ESTONIAN CAUGHT WITH HERB: British customs officials have detained an internationally wanted drug-dealer from Estonia. The Estonian attempted to smuggle 8.25 million kroons ($500,000) worth of marijuana into the country. Andrus Maenurm of Marbella, Spain, was caught with more than 100 kilograms of marijuana in his car in the customs zone between France and Great Britain, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported July 14. According to the British police, the Estonian may keep silent because he does not know whether he was caught in a routine check or is being connected with a drug trafficking chain.

PRESIDENT THANKS PRESIDENT: Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus has sent a letter to Bill Clinton, expressing his gratitude for the United States' refusal to recognize the Soviet occupation and annexation of the Baltic states for over 50 years. On July 22, the United States will have maintained a policy of non-recognition of the forced incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Soviet Union for 60 years.

WHERE TO GO AND WHAT TO DO?: Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga goes on vacation in the beginning of August. She still has not decided what she is going to do during the time off. The president's spokeswoman, Aiva Rozenberga, said the president will rest for a whole month as she did last year when she went to visit family and friends in Canada. Latvian Prime Minister Andris Berzins has not set a time for his vacation, and he will most likely not have one. If a moment of respite should occur, the prime minister will probably go on vacation for a week, his spokesman Arnis Lapins said.

CRACKDOWNS ON BUSINESS TYCOONS: Long-term oil supply talks between Lithuanian - American oil concern Mazeikiu Nafta and Russia's LUKoil may take a different turn after Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched a crackdown on his country's business tycoons. The Russian Federal Tax Service announced that it had brought cases against LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov and the Russian concern's chief accountant over the alleged concealment of taxable revenues. The Lithuanian and Russian oil concerns have been in talks about setting up a joint oil supply company and several jointly-owned wholesale firms.

EASIER SPOTTING MINES FOR LATVIANS: At a ceremonial meeting in Liepaja, Latvian Sea Force Chief Ilmars Lesinskis received the U.S. government's present: an undersea acoustic system. This will significantly aid mine detecting during times of war in the Baltic Sea, Lesinskis said. The cost of the equipment including transportation expenses and specialists' training will land on $150,000. Lesinskis said that during two world wars around 84,000 mines were placed in the Baltic Sea, and the main task of the Latvian Sea Force is to neutralize them.

RUSSIAN PRISONERS WILL BE GUINEA PIGS: The U.S. pharmaceuticals company Eli Lilly Co. may donate medicines to Estonia for the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis, The Wall Street Journal reported July 14. According to the daily newspaper, the Indianapolis-based company will launch a pilot project in Russia on prisoners, but may expand it also to Estonia, Latvia, Peru, the Philippines, Morocco, Chile and other regions where multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is becoming a public health crisis, Mario Ravigione, tuberculosis coordinator for the World Health Organization, said.