• 2001-09-20
KALEJS APPEAL: Konrads Kalejs, charged with war crimes, on Sept. 18 launched an appeal against extradition to Latvia where he is charged with genocide. Kalejs' lawyer Peter Hanks believes Latvia's extradition request and a subsequent extradition order issued by Australian Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone are not valid. He claims the extradition procedure does not confirm to an extradition treaty signed in 1924 between Great Britain and Latvia, which is currently in effect. The new extradition treaty between Latvia and Australia has not yet been ratified by the Latvian Parliament and is yet to come in force. "The Latvian party was to offer evidence on Kalejs' crimes, but it has offered only assumptions," said Hanks. The Latvian Parliament has already considered the treaty once, but returned it to its foreign affairs committee for fine-tuning. Prosecutors accuse Kalejs, 87, of actions in 1942-1943 when, as a commander of a guard company of Salaspils police and a Nazi labor camp in Salaspils, near Riga, he provided the camp's external armed security, and doomed thousands of Jews to extermination.

ETHNIC STABILITY: You can speak of Russian as a state language only after the entire country's population is able to speak freely in Latvian. Extremism from both Latvians and Russians is considered as one of the complicated characteristics of democracy, said Gunter Weiss, head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Latvia, in an interview to the Latvian daily Lauku Avize on Sept. 11. Speaking of the possible closure of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Latvia, Weiss did not wish to speculate whether this would take place in December. The OSCE mission has helped Latvia a great deal, he said. This has also occurred because Russia is a member of the OSCE and so many of the Russian accusations have been successfully defended. "If the OSCE mission closed, it would be clear that problems have been solved," claimed Weiss. Often the existence of the OSCE missions in Latvia and Estonia is linked to international worry over the relations in these countries with their large Russian-speaking minorities. It has been said that the missions could close by the end of the year.

MINE-FREE: Naval vessels from 10 countries that took part in the Open Spirit 2001 international mine hunting exercise in the Bay of Tallinn last week discovered 33 mines in the course of the event. Estonia participated with three vessels. The purpose of the exercise was to clear the waters of mines dropped in the sea during the two world wars and to assess cooperation. It was supervised by Commander Ulrich Linke of the German navy. From Germany, the staff vessel Rhein, two mine hunters and a minesweeper took part. In the last similar operation in 1998, 292 objects resembling mines, 52 mines, 18 other explosive objects and 15 wrecks were discovered in the Bay of Tallinn. Operations to clear the sea of mines have been conducted in Estonia since 1995. As many as 80,000 naval mines were dropped into the Baltic Sea during World War II alone.

BOOK PILGRIMAGE: Lithuanian publishers and translators are planning to participate in the prestigious 54th Frankfurt International Book Fair next year. The country has been invited to attend the book fair in 2002 as the "guest of honor" and will be presented to the world's book industry in the main fair stand. "It's an important event for Lithuania as an EU candidate. Culture has always been among the Lithuanian 'goods' in greatest demand," Deputy Lithuanian Culture Minister Ina Marciulionyte said in a press conference Sept. 17. This year the government has so far allocated 800,000 litas ($200,000) to the country's presentation at the book fair and is intending to earmark 4 million litas more in 2002. But Frankfurt Book Fair Director Lorenzo A. Rudolf, currently visiting Vilnius, said the success of a country's presentation was not directly related to its size or financial investment in the event. "I will admit that the Lithuanian pavilion will be a journey to an unknown land for many visitors," he said. The Frankfurt fair is the main event for the world's publishing houses and book trade representatives to exchange publishing rights and make contracts. Last year around 280,000 visitors and 10,000 journalists attended the fair.

AIR CHECK: A Boeing 737-200 jet of the Lithuanian national carrier Lietuvos Avialinijos (Lithuanian Airlines) was brought down in Cyprus on Sept. 16 for security reasons. The plane, which was on a regular charter route from Vilnius to Tel Aviv with 106 passengers on board, was forced to land at Larnaka Airport for additional examination of the aircraft, passengers, luggage and cargo aboard. The crew reassured Cyprus' airport services that the airline had applied additional safety measures following last week's terrorist attacks in the United States. However, it was subjected to another rigorous examination by Israeli services on landing in Tel Aviv.

BAD NEWS SALES UP: Newsstand sales of major Estonian dailies shot up 20 percent last week as more people than usual turned to newspapers to learn about the terrorist attacks in the United States and the methanol poisoning incident in Estonia's southwestern county of Parnu, it was revealed on Sept. 14. Kaupo Tiitus, distribution chief at the Estonian daily Postimees, said his paper's publisher had increased the number of copies going to newsstands by 15 percent during the week.