Off the wire

  • 2001-08-23
SPARRING PARTNERS: Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga believes that Latvia's refusal to grant a visa to non grata Moscow city executive Alexander Perelygin, an advisor to the Moscow mayor, cannot spoil relations between Latvia and Russia and their respective capitals. Vike-Freiberga said she wanted to see Moscow among Riga's cooperation partners and the refusal to issue a visa to Perelygin cannot be a reason for spoiling the relationship. "The Latvian authorities made the decision compatible with international practice as regards personas non grata who due to various considerations are denied visas for a certain period," said the president in the interview to Latvian Radio on Aug. 21. After Latvia refused a visa to Perelygin, the Moscow City Council delegation canceled its trip to Riga, refusing to join the city's 800th anniversary celebrations. The Russian Foreign Ministry called Latvia's refusal "a purposeful, unfriendly gesture" aimed against actual cooperation projects between Riga and Moscow, vital for the populations of both capitals.

CONTROVERSIAL JUSTICE: The Latvian Foreign Ministry believes that the Russian Foreign Ministry's accusations about ill-treatment toward ex-Soviet interior official and genocide convict Mikhail Farbtukh are inappropriate and built on non-existent "political subtexts" in the court ruling, said its state secretary, Maris Riekstins. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Aug. 21 issued a statement accusing the Latvian authorities of ill-treating and actually torturing Farbtukh by refusing to grant him early release due to poor health. The statement said, "An 84-year-old invalid of the first degree unable to take care of himself, or simply move unaided, is under question," and called for interference by international institutions. The Latvian court on Aug. 17 again rejected a request by a Riga jail administration for the early release of Farbtukh due to his health condition. The district court sentenced Farbtukh to seven years imprisonment in 1999 for reprisals against at least 31 families in Daugavpils, this later being reduced to 5 years by the Supreme Court.

TIMELY REMINDER: Leaders of the Baltic countries' former supreme councils sent on Aug. 21 a joint letter to ex-President George Bush of the United States to thank him for the support given to the Baltic states in the restoration of their independence 10 years ago. The message to Bush was signed in Riga by ex-Chairman of the Estonian Supreme Council Arnold Ruutel and his one-time colleagues Anatolijs Gorbunovs of Latvia and Vytautas Landsbergis of Lithuania. In the letter to George Bush the former leaders of the Baltic supreme councils thanked the former U.S. president for his politics in the early 1990s, which supported the restoration of the Baltic countries' independence and the development of democratic processes in those countries. In the message, Ruutel, Gorbunovs and Landsbergis expressed the hope that the United States would continue to support the Baltics' endeavors to accede to NATO and that next year the Baltic countries would get invitations to join the alliance.

ANTI-THEFT ACTION: Thousands of Estonian residents who have bought their cell phones from gray sources may find them silent in September as the country's three network operators launch a joint blacklist of stolen and disconnected devices. Specialists say up to several thousand users of the networks of EMT, Radiolinja and Q GSM may not be able to use their phones after the fall, the daily Postimees reported. The joint database of illegal devices was set up after the government made a respective decision this April. The government has ordered operators to exchange information about devices disconnected because they were stolen or for some other reason. The companies must see to it that devices with serial numbers, or IMEI codes, blocked in one network were not used in another. The newspaper said the government had opted to interfere because operators were unable to arrange cooperation on their own.

GREEN DAY: A group of young people on Aug. 20 paid homage at the Italian Embassy building in Vilnius to the anti-globalization protester killed in Genoa in July. Several youths laid a wreath at the embassy in memory of Italian Carlo Gulliani, killed in Genoa during the G8 summit, the daily Lietuvos Zinios reported. "We want to remember the event and remind people about it," one of the organizers, who declined to give his name, said. Lithuanian Tomas Aleinikovas, 20, was among the people arrested by Italian police in Genoa. He was released after interrogation, and, with no charges being pressed against him, was deported to Lithuania. The youths staging the action at the embassy claimed they would also commemorate the anniversary of the Italian protester's death. After attempts to contact the Italian Embassy it appeared that it was not working that day.

MONEY MAD: Estonians see the monetary reform that took place in June 1992 as the event that had the biggest impact on the country in the 10 years since breaking away from the Soviet Union, a poll by Estonian market research company ES Turu-uuringute AS showed last week. The monetary reform was the uncontested top event of the decade, with 70 percent of respondents mentioning it, the manager of the polling company Juhan Kivirahk told reporters Aug. 17. Some 40 percent of those polled named the pullout of Russian troops in 1994 and 36 percent named privatization. Among the other events that got a mention were the adoption of the constitution in June 1992 (27 percent), the election of Lennart Meri as president in October 1992 (22 percent), and the fixing of the border with Russia (14 percent). Meri's reelection for a second term in 1996 was named by 12 percent of the respondents, and Estonia's being included among the countries with high human development in the UN Human Development Report last year by 11 percent. One-tenth of Estonians attached great importance to the elimination of corporate income tax on reinvested profit and the invitation to accession talks with the European Union. ES Market Research questioned 988 people across Estonia in the middle of July.