Off the wire

  • 2001-08-16
PUNISHED PEACEKEEPERS: Estonian defense forces commander Rear Adm. Tarmo Kouts discharged six soldiers of the peacekeeping corps who violated public order in the Estonian town of Paldiski last month, the central staff said on Aug. 10. Basing his action on the findings of the investigation so far, the commander-in-chief handed down disciplinary punishments for the violation of internal regulations to 21 members of the defense forces, nine of whom were demoted and 12 reprimanded. The leadership of the Peace Operations Center in Paldiski was also punished by disciplinary means for failure to ensure discipline at the required level. Several Russian-speaking local residents were reportedly intimidated and roughed up by peacekeepers training in Paldiski on the night of July 24 as drunken soldiers sought revenge after some of their comrades had been robbed in the town.

RAISE THE DRAWBRIDGE: An adviser to the mayor of Moscow, included in the official list of Russian delegates going to the Latvian capital Riga for the city's 800th anniversary celebrations this weekend, will not be allowed into Latvia, as the Latvian authorities have refused to lift his current status of persona non grata. Alexander Perelygin will not be issued a visa because of a decision made last November to ban him from entering the country for a year. Riga City Council asked the Interior Ministry to grant an exception in Perelygin's case. Moreover, Perelygin was recently appointed chairman of Moscow's task force for cooperation with Riga. Perelygin was banned from entering Latvia when the Latvian embassy in Moscow rejected his visa application due to "security reasons."Latvia and Estonia both see Perelygin as a controversial figure, and media reports describe him as the mastermind behind the anti-Latvian propaganda campaign staged by Russia in 1998. His recent application for an entry visa to Estonia was also turned down.

PEOPLE, NOT TREES: A group of protesters gathered outside Druskininkai municipality on Aug. 10 to support the planned construction of a Statoil gas station in the southern Lithuanian spa resort. Applauding Lietuva Statoil's investments in the town, participants said that the incident where an area of pine forest was destroyed to make room for the gas station was exaggerated. The protesters called on President Valdas Adamkus to care more about people rather than trees. The felling of 254 pines and 100 junipers was protested by a local Green movement. Adamkus instructed the Prosecutor General's Office and the Special Investigations Service to look into the incident, which forced Environment Vice-Minister Eugenijus Palavinskas to resign. Those in support of Statoil issued a statement in the local media saying that a new gas station would bring more profits to the city and its residents than the damages caused by chopping down a few trees. During the Soviet era, Druskininkai was well known as a mineral-water resort, but the flow of patients fell dramatically after Lithuania restored its independence in 1990, causing most sanatoria to go bust.

MYSTERIOUS VIRUS: All lab tests have failed to identify a disease that struck down 46 guests staying in a health resort in the Latvian seaside town of Jurmala last week. Epidemiologists have tested the water and the food in the Belorusija health resort where a number of foreign guests are suffering from an acute intestinal infection, but without any results. Tests for dysentery, cholera, rotavirus, astrovirus and other infections came up negative. The epidemiologists are presuming that guests staying at the Belorusija had contracted various infections in different places and were already sick when they checked in. The count of the sick includes three people from Canada, four from Israel, four from Russia, 25 from Belarus and nine from Latvia. Two people from the kitchen staff are also among them. Most of the patients suffered from nausea and diarrhea, many had high fever and some complained about pains in the stomach and joints.

SAVISAAR IS NO LIBERAL: The international organization of political parties with a liberal global outlook, Liberal International, is unwilling to admit Estonia's Center Party any time soon, even though the party has sought membership more than once. To become a member, a party must adhere to a liberal world view, which the Center Party does not, visiting secretary-general of the organization Jan Weijers told reporters in Tallinn on Aug. 13. "There are also problems with Center Party Chairman Edgar Savisaar, whose activities do not always conform to liberal principles,"Weijers noted. Savisaar has meanwhile declared that his party's program and activities observe the principles of Liberal International and that consequently it should be admitted as a member along with other centrist parties in the Nordic countries. Liberal International has two members from Estonia, the Reform Party and the Coalition Party. The organization counts 88 political parties around the world as its members.

GET WELL: The Lithuanian President's Office officially confirmed on Aug. 10 that President Valdas Adamkus had his bladder stone crushed using sound waves during the night of Aug. 7. The presidential press service said that the 74-year-old president was not under an anesthetic during the 15-minute procedure. According to the report, Adamkus is continuing the treatment course and is scheduled to go in for a check-up in 10 days. During check-ups after an operation to remove the president's appendix a month ago doctors discovered the bladder stone and tried to dissolve it with special medications. The president has been in the hospital rather frequently of late. On June 3 he underwent eye surgery, had his appendix removed later that month, and was diagnosed with a bladder stone in early July. Several weeks ago, Adamkus said that his good health could allow him to run for a second term.