Off the wire

  • 2001-05-24
HAPPY NEW YEAR: A Latvian man is undergoing psychiatric evaluation after police found the decomposing body of his sister in his one-room apartment. He said he kept it there so he could spend the holidays with her, a police official said. Police received a tip from neighbors who complained of a strong odor and found the body on May 20. Police determined that the woman, about 60 years of age, died in November. Two boys saw the woman's body through the apartment's partially open door. It was covered with blankets and tree branches. The man told police he kept the body so he could spend Christmas, New Year's Eve, Easter and his upcoming 52nd birthday with her. He will remain in custody until forensic tests are completed to determine the cause of death.

BYE, SPY: Eugenijus Jonika, a 26-year-old resident of the Lithuanian city of Siauliai, was arrested on spying charges on May 21 by the Lithuanian state authorities. Officials did not reveal to which state he allegedly intended to pass classified information. "This is a person who was acquainted with sensitive information and who planned to sell information connected with undercover operations to a foreign country," Lithuanian State Security Department chief Mecys Laurinkus told reporters. Laurinkus said Jonika would likely be indicted in connection with two crimes under Lithuania's criminal code - betrayal of the state and revelation of classified information. Asked whether Jonika was recruited, Laurinkus said the suspect had acted on his own initiative.

CHECHENS LOOK TO NORDS: Aslan Maskhadov, a Chechen separatist leader, is trying to establish contacts with representatives of the Estonian Defense Ministry, Interfax cited unnamed sources as saying on May 21. "At recent negotiations, an Estonian representative expressed complete political support for the Chechen separatists and readiness to help them on behalf of a group of persons in the Estonian general staff," sources in Russia's law-enforcement institutions told Interfax. "The Estonian said that he and his colleagues could give material and technical support to the extremists," the sources were quoted as adding. Speaking on behalf of the Estonian armed forces' central staff, spokesman Peeter Tali dismissed the report as journalistic fiction. "This isn't true. I'm categorically denying that any such negotiations have been held," Tali said.

ELECTION RIGHTS: A plaintiff from Latvia who turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg with a claim over violations of the election law wants 50,000 lats ($79,000) in moral damages and also 1,500 lats in lost salary. The court accepted the complaint by Ingrida Podkolzina and the court is expected to make a ruling within two months, according to Podkolzina's representative Ilga Ozisa. Podkolzina's claim concerns restricting election rights on the grounds of discrimination by language. Podkolzina, a resident of the eastern Latvian city of Daugavpils, which has a predominantly Russian-speaking population, was deleted from the list of candidates in parliamentary elections in Latvia in 1998 due to inadequate language proficiency. The court notified the Latvian government about the amount of damages claimed.

TALLINN BLUES: Tallinn's city government is planning to form its own municipal police force. Instead of the present 10 or 12 patrols on the city's streets, municipal police could offer up to 50 patrols, presumably enough to make the streets safe, Leo Gluckmann, chief specialist at the municipal government's safety and integration board, told reporters on May 21. The Tallinn branch of the national police currently has about 28 percent of its staff on patrol. In a municipal force up to 90 percent of the staff could be engaged in patrolling, according to Gluckmann. "Municipal police would wear the same uniforms as regular police. The only difference would be that municipal police could have the Tallinn coat of arms on their sleeves instead of the police emblem, for instance," Gluckmann said.

MONUMENT HOME: Riga City Council agreed on May 22 on the site for the monument to the victims of communist terror, putting an end to a lengthy debate that has lasted for several years. The monument will be displayed in Tornakalns, an area across the River Daugava from the city center where the memorial was supposed to be located according to initial plans. The monument will be unveiled on June 14, the official commemoration date. Initially it was planned to put the monument in Esplanade Park in the city center, but many argued that a downtown area was not the best place for silent commemoration. The public was also divided over the design of the monument and emotions ran so high that at one point sculptors even ceased working on it before changing their minds. The monument consists of four granite sculptures representing a family. They will be positioned on a platform of fine fragments of white stone, on which flowers can be laid or candles lit.

HALFWAY HOUSE: Lithuania provisionally closed European Union membership negotiations on chapters on company law and free movement of goods, reaching the halfway point in the membership talks it started last spring. At a meeting of Lithuanian and EU negotiators in Brussels on May 17 agreement was also reached on the first transitional period. Lithuania is asking for a transitional period until 2007 for renovating the documentation of pharmaceuticals registration files. At the moment, Lithuania has preliminarily closed down 15 negotiations chapters. Cyprus has closed 21, Estonia and Slovenia have closed 18, Hungary 17, Slovakia 16, Poland 15, Malta and Latvia 13, Bulgaria 9 and Romania 6.