Off the wire

  • 2001-07-26
CHIRAC TO VISIT BALTICS: French President Jacques Chirac is going to tour the Baltics in a state visit from July 26 to July 28. Chirac is arriving in Vilnius on July 26, going to Latvia on July 27 and to Estonia on July 28. The key issues for discussion with the three Baltic presidents will be their countries' bilateral relations with France, and Baltic integration into the EU and NATO, for which France's support is highly important. The Latvian president's adviser Andrejs Pildegovics described the upcoming visit as symbolic, because France was one of the first countries in Europe to recognize the restoration of Latvia's independence. The then French President Francois Miterrand was first among Europe's heads of state to pay a visit to Latvia in 1992, shortly after the restoration of its independence.

LOCAL PROTESTER BUSTED: The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry received confirmation that a citizen of Lithuania was among the people arrested during a raid on protesters in Genoa, the site of the recent G8 summit meeting. According to sources, Tomas Aleinikovas, 20, a resident of Siauliai in northern Lithuania was charged with disturbing the peace and possessing a weapon. The Lithuanian Embassy in Rome was informed of the arrest by Rome police. World news agencies reported on the weekend that nearly 100 people were arrested during the police raid on the headquarters of the Genoa Social Forum in a school, including 40 Germans, 15 Italians, 13 Spaniards, and citizens of Britain, Switzerland, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Sweden, Greece, Lithuania and New Zealand. The Genoa Social Fund unites several anti-globalization groups.

KILLER COP FIRED: Estonian Interior Minister Tarmo Loodus has reprimanded Harry Tuul, general director of the police board, for leniency in dealing with a Viljandi police commissar who killed a cyclist July 16 while driving drunk. Loodus called Tuul into his office on July 23 to ask for an account of the accident and told him the man should have been fired, not permitted to leave of his own accord. Loodus also ordered an inquiry into breaches of the law by police officers. "The inquiry should take about a month and no one can be punished before that time," an Interior Ministry spokesman said. Last week, Loodus published an expression of condolences in the daily newspaper Sakala to the relatives of the cyclist killed by the car driven by the drunken police commissar. Ants Pajumagi, a supervision and patrol service commissar in the Viljandi traffic police squad, hit the cyclist, 20, who later died in hospital. After the accident, Pajumae was found to have a blood alcohol level of 1.1 and a criminal case was opened against him.

AWOL WITH DAGGER: A 19-year-old soldier suspected of possessing a military dagger was reported absent without leave from a military sub-unit in Siauliai. According to police, the soldier left a motorized infantry battalion July 23. It is the first occasion in the motorized infantry battalion's existence that a soldier possessing a weapon has gone AWOL. At present, 213 active service soldiers are serving in the battalion. The battalion leadership has been unable to explain the reasons behind the soldier's decision. According to the military commander's spokesperson, sometimes soldiers leave their units without permission only to return in 1 or 2 days. If a soldier does not return to his unit in 5 days, criminal charges are brought against him.

BLIND SIGHT: A blind man from Latvia for the first time in the country's history will attempt to climb Mont Blanc, the head of a Latvian disabled persons club, Rihards Valands, has announced. So far four people with impaired vision have climbed the highest mountain peaks of the world. If Armands Skudra makes it he will be the fifth. Skudra, who has been blind since the age of 14, said that this will be his first attempt to climb Mont Blanc. He said he had been reading a lot about mountaineering and Mont Blanc and is physically ready to make the climb. "In life you should enjoy and try everything, to see if you can do it. For the time being it feels like, who is going to win, the mountain or me?" said Skudra. The group of 10 Latvian mountaineers will leave for Switzerland July 26. They plan to climb Mont Blanc on Aug. 1 or 2, starting from the town of Chamonix, depending on weather conditions. Mont Blanc is 4,807 meters high including its snow cap.

BEARS, BADGERS AND POLECATS: According to the statistical office, 600 brown bears were living in Estonia's forests last year, 20 of which were shot. The population of brown bears was stable in the previous two years, but back in 1995 they numbered 660. Wolves numbered 150 last year, while five years earlier as many as 700 wolves were counted here. Hunters shot 56 wolves last year. The number of lynxes has remained stable over the last five years, with 1,100 animals counted in 1995 and 1999, and 1,000 last year. The animal most frequently met in the Estonian forests is the roe deer with a population of 30,000. Wild boars and beavers number 11,000 and elk 9,200. There was no data available for last year on several kinds of game, but in 1995 47,000 hares, 7,200 raccoons, 7,100 pine martens, 1,400 minks, 2,700 badgers, 8,000 muskrats, 8,900 foxes and 900 polecats were counted in Estonia.

CLEAN CATTLE: Some 2,539 cattle over the age of 30 months have been examined by the Lithuanian National Veterinary Laboratory since early July and no case of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalophathy) or mad cow disease has been detected. "About 2,500 is a number that can reflect certain tendencies. In our case the tendencies are fortunate and we can state that Lithuanian cattle are healthy and Lithuanian consumers eat healthy meat," Kazimieras Lukauskas, director of the State Food and Veterinary Service, said July 23. In June, the national veterinary laboratory received an additional 1 million litas ($250,000) in government subsidies and acquired all the necessary equipment for testing for BSE. The new equipment enables it to carry out a test in four hours. The plans are to examine 30,000 cattle by the end of 2001 and another 70,000 in 2002.