Off the wire

  • 2001-09-06
PILING ON PRESSURE: Baltic American organizations have collected more than 25,000 signatures in a petition asking President George W. Bush to support the admission of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO at the alliance's Prague summit in December 2002. The Joint Baltic American National Committee, together with representatives of other Baltic American organizations, intends to present the petition to the Bush administration on Sept. 10. Bush affirmed the administration's stance on NATO enlargement in Poland in June by stating he believed in NATO membership for all of Europe's democracies that sought it.

CHARITY HARDWARE: Sweden transferred various types of weaponry to Lithuania at its western port city Klaipeda on Sept. 3. An official ceremony for the transfer of the weapons was attended by Swedish Defense Minister Bjorn von Sydow and Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius. Sweden is currently downsizing and updating its military forces and decided to transfer part of its surplus of weapons to the Lithuanian forces along with training for military staff. The equipment will outfit three infantry brigades. Trucks, automatic weapons, artillery equipment, medicaments, communications and transport have arrived in Klaipeda, and more is to come. According to estimates, Sweden has so far handed military equipment worth more than $200 million to Lithuania. "Although we are capable of allocating more of the budget for arms purchases this year, this aid is very important for us,"Linkevicius said.

COMMUNISTS REJECTED: Lithuania's ruling Social Democratic Party is not planning to act on calls by the country's Socialist Party to legalize the Communist Party. The tiny Lithuanian Socialist Party publicly called on the Social Democrats' leadership on Sept. 3 to legalize the Communist Party or take the matter to the Constitutional Court for a hearing. The Socialists say that in 1991 the Supreme Soviet - the nascent independent Lithuanian Parliament - illegally banned the Lithuanian Communist Party, which earlier broke away from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Vytenis Andriukaitis, the Social Democrats' deputy chairman, said he thought the communists' activities could not be legalized because they had taken part in a conspiracy to overthrow the Lithuanian state. He was referring to the attack that led to the deaths of unarmed civilians in Vilnius on January 13, 1991. He said the Lithuanian Communist Party should only be rehabilitated if it can prove it did not take part in this event.

INCIDENT AT BAT CAPE: An event called "European Bat Night"took place on the evening of Sept. 2 and the morning of Sept. 3 at Cape Vente at the delta of the Nemunas River in Lithuania, to bring attention to the need for bat conservation. Lithuania's Environmental Protection Ministry reported that bat events will also be happening across Europe. The event was aimed at showing the bat as man's friend and helper, a creature that feeds on crop- and forest-destroying insects. The bat population across Europe is listed as endangered. A large number of Europe's bats fly south to the Mediterranean for the winter. This was the second European Bat Night to be held in Lithuania in an ongoing public education campaign. Participants observed migrating bats with the aid of high powered lights and ultrasound devices. Currently 14 species of bats make Lithuania their home. A bat reserve has been established in Juljenava in the territory of the old military forts in Kaunas, Lithuania.

LOST WRECK: The Lithuanian ship the Eridanas, damaged in an accident in Chilean waters in the Straits of Magellan, has been sunk in the Pacific Ocean. The sinking operation was conducted on Aug. 31. The place allocated for the sinking was about 20 nautical miles off the coast of Chile. The valves of the ship were opened and, with the water gushing through them, the Eridanas sank in nine hours. Repairs would have come to more than the vessel's worth. The Chilean authorities had also ordered that the vessel, which was standing near the port of Punta Arena where it was towed after the accident, be removed immediately. The company Lietuvos Transporto Laivynas incurred $2.5 million losses. The accident happened in mid-July. The ship was plying a course from Africa when it ran aground on rocky shoals about 1,600 kilometers from its destination, the Chilean port of San Vicente, even though it was being escorted by pilot vessels.

PRICEY TALK: A delegation from the Latvian parliament will head for Burkina Faso Sept. 6 to 16 to participate in an inter-parliamentary conference to discuss world cooperation on children's rights issues and the fight against AIDS. The delegation will include Parliamentary Speaker Rihards Piks, parliament members Juris Dobelis and Risards Lobanovskis, and Sandra Paura, head of the inter-Parliament relations office. Dobelis said the conference is being held for the 106th time. Meanwhile, left-wing For Human Rights in a United Latvia leader, Janis Jurkans, complained that trips like this can be afforded only by the richest countries in Europe. "They should say loud and clear that we want to go on an excursion at the expense of taxpayers' money. It would be nicer if they went to Vanuatu. It's a little further and more exotic,"said Jurkans ironically. The trip, to be covered by the Parliament, will total around 5,500 lats ($8,870).

FIRST VANDALS: A Catholic church in the city of Ogre, 40 kilometers south-east of Riga, was hit by graffiti vandals last week, who sprayed numbers, a pentagram and a swastika on the church walls. "When members of the congregation came to worship, they saw it. There wasn't anything last night. Probably some drunken boys, some fool, drew something,"said the dean of the congregation, Konstantins Bojars. This was the first crime carried out on the church, which was built in 1997. The incident was reported to the police. "Sometimes they accuse us of not reporting things that have happened, so I wrote a report,"said Bojars. The state police have investigated the scene of the crime, but have not yet determined who is to blame.